Introduction to IATI (Demo)

Welcome to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) online training course.

Launched in 2008, IATI has emerged as a primary success story of transparency and open data by providing access to critical aid information from a range of development and humanitarian actors. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

This course has been developed to familiarize all participants with the principles of transparency according to the IATI Standard.

Introduction

Learning Objectives

Development and humanitarian actors around the world have acknowledged the need for greater political commitment towards transparency.

As signatories to International Aid Transparency Initiative, organisations are expected to fulfill their commitments in a way that benefits both donors and aid recipients.

This training is designed to introduce you to IATI and outline its relevance in aid transparency and effectiveness.


Target Audience:

This training was designed for United Nations personnel worldwide, primarily:

  • Team Leaders and Unit Managers;
  • Staff involved in project management and operations; and,
  • All other IATI practitioners.


Course duration:

The training takes approximately 60 minutes to complete.


What will you learn?

In this course, you will learn about IATI and the main principles of aid transparency within the context of the IATI Standard.

Learning objectives;

By the end of this training you will be able to:

  1. Define the main principles of aid transparency and IATI, and better understand how the IATI Standard supports and promotes aid transparency.
  2. Explain the process of IATI publication. For this initiative to be successful it is imperative to understand the publication process and other relevant considerations.
  3. Use IATI data. Learn how to find and use information within organisations and from external sources.
  4. Understand the importance of quality data and the need for reviewing processes of IATI published data;
  5. Discover ways to champion IATI among co-workers and counterparts outside your organisation;


Desired outcome;

This course gives you an opportunity to learn about IATI, as well as how to apply what you have learned in your work, and ways to improve the quality of data gathered. All of this will raise compliance to the IATI Standard and usability of data.

Commitment to aid transparency and the relevance of IATI

Aid transparency

Why transparency matters

Transparency is one of the main principles of development effectiveness.

Information on who is funding what, where and to what effect is transformational and can lead to greater levels of development effectiveness. Improving transparency can result in:

  • Better planning and coordination. Access to timely and accurate information enables development partners to plan operations and manage resources effectively.
  • Effective decision making. Having the necessary information leads to improved policy formulation and evidence-based decision making.
  • Greater accountability Holding aid organisations accountable for the use of resources helps ensure they reach intended recipients.
  • Improved beneficiary feedback process. Making relevant data available helps citizens voice their concerns and feedback, and engage with policymakers.
  • Maximizing development impact. The widespread availability of information leads to effective collaboration and maximized development impact.

What is IATI

The International Aid Transparency Initiative is a voluntary multi-stakeholder initiative designed to increase transparency by enabling organisations to publish aid, development, and humanitarian information in a common format.

The following video provides a brief outline of IATI and how it works.

The need for the IATI Standard

At the 2011 High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan development actors made a commitment to, "implement a common open standard for the electronic publication of timely, comprehensive and forward-looking information on resources provided through development cooperation.” This standard was to take into account OECD-DAC statistical reporting and work of IATI.

The Busan commitment highlighted the need for adopting a common IATI standard. United Nations organisations were part of the agreement and are required to fulfill the commitment.

Why IATI?

Although a number of systems and databases exist to report and capture aid information IATI is the only one recognized to make aid and development information easier to access, use, and understand in an openly accessible and comparable format.

IATI provides a common format for organisations to publish information that can be compared to, and combined with, other datasets. This will, hopefully, improve the availability of historic, current and future resource flows reported by a broad range of development cooperation providers.

IATI enables any organisations to:

  • Publish information in a standardized format so datasets from various sources can be easily compared and combined.
  • Provide regular updates—on a monthly, quarterly, or six-monthly basis—which keeps information as current as possible.
  • Publish data using a flexible standard that allows for easy adoption by various development cooperation providers.
  • Publish in one central location. The IATI registry provides links to data published by all organisations using the IATI Standard.
  • Provide, where possible, forward-looking information that enables partner country governments to plan and budget more clearly and comprehensively.
  • The common format makes published information more readily comparable.

Publishing detailed information about organisational activities to IATI demonstrates and strengthens organisation's reputation, showing it is committed to achieving positive results by effectively managing aid resources. Publishing to IATI helps a publishing organisation

  • Fulfill the Busan commitment to transparency, and help promote an organisation's image as a leader in transparent global development.
  • Satisfy requirements of donor countries and other stakeholders to publish information transparently.  
  • Provide access to internal information in a format that can be compared to, and combined with, other aid data. This information can be effectively accessed by users, including developing country governments and other aid actors.
  • Promote collaboration with other development partners by making quality information available for better decision-making.
  • Improve internal data quality, which in turn helps your organisation better manage aid resources.

Key dimensions of IATI

Making information transparent alone will not help improve aid effectiveness. Information must be properly used if better decisions are to be made. IATI operates on three key dimensions that contribute to better decision-making and greater effectiveness.

Timely

Data is kept up-to-date and regularly updated.

Comprehensive

A publisher reports the maximum number of activities (e.g. all development projects) and includes the maximum level of information (IATI elements) related to those activities.

Forward-looking

Publishing forward-looking data allows governments to use information for planning and budgeting purposes.

The IATI publication process explained

How it works

The roles and responsibilities of IATI include building a bridge between publisher and user.

  • Publisher
    • Data collection
    • Data publication
  • User
    • Data search
    • Data use

Data collection and publication

Organisations collect and store a large amount of data as part of their day to day activities. Mostly, these data staying internal unless the organisation decides to make data sets publicly available. When an organisation joins IATI it must decide what information to publish. Initially, the organisation can start publishing basic sets of information and, over time, increase the volume and quality of information it shares.

Publishing data to the IATI Standard starts with preparing the organisation, including establishing a business case for the organisation, securing buy-in from senior management and other stakeholders, and setting up teams and technical processes responsible for publishing.

The information to IATI is published in eXtensibleMarkup Language (XML) file format in two different types of data files - organisation and activity. The organisation file contains financial information and documents at the corporate and country level, while the activity files capture activity (eg. Project) level information and documents.

Over time, publishers can improve datasets by increasing the amount of information published, updating datasets more frequently, and (most importantly) improving the quality of data.

The IATI Standard will evolve to accommodate emerging needs on development cooperation and humanitarian responses. This will be done in accordance with a rigorous and consultative change management process. Those who publish on IATI are expected to keep up with standard updates, while complying with the Standard.

Key considerations;

  • Publishing policies. Determine information the organisation can publish.
  • Data specification. Decide what level of information should be included in the IATI dataset.
  • Technology for publishing. Set up systems and tools for data collection, XML generation, and publishing.
  • Skills and knowledge. Establish a team with knowledge on IATI, and technical skills to implement the IATI Standard within the organisation
  • Publication processes. Sustain publication processes, outlining all IATI related activities from data collection to publishing.


What activity-related information can be published to IATI?

The IATI activity standard broadly contains the following types of information:

  • Basic project information: project title and description, project start and end dates, status, donor and implementing organisations and contact details.
  • Geopolitical information: recipient country or region and sub-national locations.
  • Classifications: sectors, policy markers, humanitarian scope, aid type, flow type, finance type, collaboration type and tied status.
  • Financial information: budget, expenditure, disbursement, donor commitments, and incoming funds.
  • Related document and links: project level documents (e.g. objective, budget, evaluations, results, impact appraisals, procurement and contract documents) and activity web pages.
  • Performance information: conditions and results data.

IATI is a voluntary initiative that enables publishers to determine what information they will make public using the Standard. The publisher; however, needs to satisfy the minimum requirement of including mandatory information required by the Standard (even when deciding to publish additional information voluntarily).

The publisher decides the unit of aid (e.g. a project or programme) they will use to define an activity and has the option to publish information on all or only some of its activities. Deciding what to publish is generally dictated by the organisation's Information Disclosure Policy (or open data policy) and the data available.

Depending on the IATI Standard version in use, the publisher is required to include the mandatory elements required by the specific version of the Standard.

Depending on the version of the IATI Standard in use, a publisher must include mandatory elements required by that version of the Standard.

The latest activity Standard version 2.02 (as of October 2016) requires the following elements:

  • A valid reporting organisation identifier. The unique identification of the organisation publishing data to IATI (e.g. reporting ID of a United Nations organisation that is used as the OECD channel code).
  • A unique activity identifier. A globally unique identifier for each activity (e.g. a system generated project or programme ID).
  • Title. A short, human-readable title that contains a meaningful summary of the activity (e.g. project title stated in project document).
  • Description. A longer, human-readable description, containing a meaningful outline of the activity (e.g. project descriptions used in the document).
  • Activity date. Planned and actual start, and completion dates of the activity (e.g. planned project start and end dates available in the system).
  • Activity status. Current status of the published activity (e.g. implementation or completion).
  • Participating organisation Cite at least one of the organisations involved in the activity (e.g. donor or implementing organisation).
  • Recipient country or region. The country or region that will benefit from the activity.
  • Sector. Classify the purpose of the activity (e.g. the OECD DAC sector or Sustainable Development Goal where project or programme funds are spent).


The Information Disclosure Policy

Public disclosure is guided by an organisation’s Information Disclosure Policy (IDP). This is used to define what type of information the organisation can make public and highlights any restrictions or “exclusions” for confidentiality, security purposes, and commercial protection. It is also used to express commitment towards transparency, internally and externally.

The IDP provides the guidelines for IATI data publication, an organisation's public disclosure. It also explains how the public can request additional information, and procedures for handling such requests.

Organisations should consider adopting stronger disclosure policies that employees can easily follow by providing clear guidelines for making information available.

  • Policies should be aimed at providing public with maximum access to information
  • In contrast to spelling out what information can be published, an organisation with higher ambition can set out a clear list of exclusions, and allow disclosure of any information in its possession that is not on the exclusion list.
  • Allow exclusions but only when absolutely necessary. Do not allow the principle of exclusion to hinder the effective disclosure of information.
  • Set out clear procedures for requesting information that is not readily available.
  • Recognize requesters’ rights to an appeals process when a request for information is denied.

Data search: Where can I find IATI data?

IATI datastore CSV query builder

IATI datastore is an online service that channels all data published to the IATI Standard into a single source. While store mainly provides services to data technologists, analysts, and developers, the CSV query builder can be easily used by others to generate CSV spreadsheets of the IATI data they are interested in.

Finding specific information can be challenging, especially when you don’t know how to use XML data files. The IATI query builder allows users to extract IATI data in different ways, such as by country, publisher, or sector. Data is presented in a CSV spreadsheet.

Access link: http://datastore.iatistandard.org/query/index.php 

 (Create a short video to show how the query builder is used)

Transparency portals

Data published to the IATI Registry is in XML format, which is difficult for general users to understand. Transparency portals provide user-friendly data so the public can easily search for information. Following are a few examples of transparency portals available to the public.

D-portal.org

D-portal is the official IATI country-based information platform that tracks resource flows and provides partner countries and other stakeholders with information that can help in planning and monitoring development activities. All data published to the IATI Registry can be compared, from organisation to organisation, or between regional, country, and sector levels.

open.undg.org

The UNDG portal presents the data published by UN agencies to IATI in a similar format to d-portal.org. In addition, this portal provides the aggregated view of aid flow from UN agencies to partner countries and sectors.  

Organisation transparency portals:

An IATI publisher can present the same information it publishes to IATI on its own transparency portal, thereby closing information gaps.

The open.undp.org is an example of a transparency portal implemented by UNDP.

Data use

IATI gives organisations the opportunity to publish large amounts of humanitarian and development data in a comparable format which has opened the door for a range of alternative uses, such as:

  • Data visualization. IATI data is currently used to showcase an organisation's commitment to transparency and its credibility as a development partner. Data portals are created by using IATI data to present visually comprehensive information about an organisation and its activities.
  • Data analysis. D-portal and CSV query builder help users to find out who is funding what and where within a country. Partner countries can use these details to analyse flow of external resources and take the lead in coordinating partner activity or direct resources to sectors/areas that require them the most.
  • Data integration. IATI data has been successfully tested for automated data integration into partner country Aid Information Management Systems (AIMS). Effective integration will allow partner countries to avoid the manual effort of inputting data into AIMS. Furthermore, it will increase the information available in AIMS by providing data from IATI publishing donors who are not part of a local aid information management system.

Note: Publishers are urged to pay close attention to the quality of data. Doing so increases the confidence of users who need to rely on data sets for their work.

How an organisation puts IATI data into use

IATI data has been used by various stakeholders for planning, budgeting, monitoring, and advocacy purposes. But IATI publishers often focus only on publishing, without taking advantage of the wealth of IATI data for their own planning and decision-making processes.


  • IATI data provides insights into an organisation's activities around the world, and can be used as a quick access point to search and find information on the activities of various organisations. This promotes increased coordination between development actors at all stages of a project.
  • During the project planning phase, IATI data can be used to identify the other development partners working in a sector or geographic area to work better together and avoid duplication of efforts.
  • IATI data helps organisations produce high-quality internal data that can be used for improving internal management and programme efficiency.
  • By using IATI data donors gain insight into where money has gone and what results were achieved. IATI data can improve donor relations by providing access to up-to-date information on activities funded by respective donors. It is a single point of access for relevant information and critical documents.
  • IATI data can be used as an effective communication tool. Transparency portals (e.g. open.undp.org or d-portal.org) can be used to showcase project interventions and results effectively to donors and partner country administrations.
  • IATI data can be used to foster dialogue between a donor and recipient organisations.

Quality and completeness of data

Data quality assurance

Open data provides a strong incentive for all IATI publishers to improve the quality of information they share, and this begins with capturing quality information in their internal systems.

Data quality assurance

The publication of poor quality data can be harmful to an organisation's reputation, and may have little value to users if they do not believe it is reliable. Publishing accurate and complete information that is clear and easy to understand should be a chief priority for publishers.

The following actions can help publishers ensure all information provided is accurate, complete and up-to-date:

  • Prepare IATI specific guidelines for data entry. To generate quality data it is important staff involved in entering or uploading data is aware of the quality of data being shared. Developing organisation-wide IATI related guidelines will help ensure all relevant staff are aware of data quality requirements.
  • Embed IATI related functions into regular project management and monitoring processes. Doing this creates and strengthens a culture of transparency throughout the project implementation cycle.
  • Develop an internal dashboard to monitor data quality. Publishers should consider developing an internal transparency dashboard that enables project managers to review project information and ensure it is accurate, complete and up-to-date for IATI publishing.
  • Carry out periodic data review exercises with field offices. A regular data review exercise at the field level will help ensure project managers have taken adequate action to confirm the availability and quality of data.
  • Establish a feedback mechanism with internal and external data users. Feedback from data users is essential to ensure that published data is usable. If it is not publishers are alerted and take steps to improve quality.

Transparency assessments

Transparency and accountability should be at the core of an organisation’s work since it is vital to improving trust and confidence in humanitarian and development initiatives. IATI data is often used by donors and independent agencies to assess a publisher's performance on transparency indicators. Examples of such assessments are described in the following pages.

The Aid Transparency Index

The Aid Transparency Index is an annual transparency assessment carried out by Publish What You Fund (PWYF), an international NGO based in the United Kingdom. The most widely recognised independent measure of aid transparency, it currently assesses aid transparency among major aid organisations. After an initial pilot assessment in 2011, the Aid Transparency Index was launched in 2012 and has become the global benchmark for aid transparency.

The Index methodology assesses IATI data according to multiple indicators, and developed following the IATI principles that data must be:

  • Timely and current

  • Open and comparable

  • Comprehensive

  • Forward-looking

Based on the final score, PWYF ranks each organisation in the Index and places them in five categories – Very good, good, fair, poor and very poor. 


Global Partnership Transparency Indicator

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (the ‘Global Partnership’) was established in Busan in 2011, and is responsible for carrying out regular global monitoring exercises to track progress on the implementation of development effectiveness principles across a range of indicators. It focuses on strengthening developing country institutions, increasing transparency and predictability of development co-operation, enhancing gender equality, and supporting greater involvement of civil society, trade unions, parliaments, and private sector in development efforts. Transparency is one of the ten indicators. 

The transparency assessment is based on the dimensions of timeliness, comprehensiveness, and forward-looking data. These assess IATI, OECD CRS, and FSS data to provide a four-category scale rating from ‘needs improvement’ to ‘excellent'.


Donor reviews

Donor countries increasingly recognize the importance of IATI as a reporting standard, and some, such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, have already made IATI reporting a mandatory requirement for their implementing partners. Transparency has become an important aspect of multilateral aid, and organisations are subject to higher levels of scrutiny on what they do (and don’t) publish.

For example, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) carries out a multilateral development review that assesses performance across the multilateral system by examining the operations of organisations that receive funding from DFID. 'Transparency and accountability' is one of the three components used in the assessment framework for assessing the organisational strength, and IATI publishing is the indicator to determine transparency.

Recap (copy)

Things to remember

1. Understand the requirements. Knowing the requirements will help you better prepare for collecting complete and accurate data.

2. Buy in. Acknowledging the corporate priority of being a transparent organisation and accepting your responsibility in making it a reality, will help to embed IATI-related functions into your work routine effectively.

3. Share all information available, but be aware of exclusions. Make sure all relevant information is shared but do not share anything included on the information disclosure policy exclusion list.

4. Know your systems and internal procedures for data input. Knowing the steps involved will help you upload information effectively, and reduce the time spent on data entry or searches.

5. Always review data before uploading. Always double-check the details entered to ensure the comprehensiveness and accuracy of information provided.

6. Regularly monitor what you are publishing.

7. Use your judgement. What to publish or not is guided by the Information Disclosure Policy, but not all circumstances are explicitly specified. There might be consequences for uploading sensitive information to IATI publication, so if you are not sure, seek advice from colleagues working in your legal or transparency teams.

8. Don't forget to use the data you publish.

Congratulations!

Thank you for completing this course. We hope you now have a better understanding of the IATI implementation process, which will assist you in performing IATI related tasks in the future.