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Leveraging Open Data to Build a Muskoka-MNCH Tracker

Project lead: Aniket Bhushan; Organization: North-South Institute (NSI)

The Concept

Open aid data is great, but it becomes really useful when we are able to use it alongside other data feeds. For instance IATI and other donor open aid data presents granular project level information, but this is still fairly general and aggregated when compared to the rich quantitative and qualitative (including narrative) information implementing partners collect through their own monitoring, evaluation, results and impact tracking systems. How can we build a more effective knowledge and information sharing application that leverages various available open aid data feeds to shed more light on Canada’s flagship $2.85billion, 5year, Muskoka/MNCH commitment?

This project builds on existing work at NSI, started at the RHOK hack (Dec, 2013).

A proof of concept for an online tool, including an interactive map that brings in data on Muskoka MNCH related spending automatically as it is updated in various sources (DFATD, IATI) has already been demonstrated, and a sample can be seen on heroku.

In this challenge we would like to extend the functionality to allow users to: navigate expenditures and commitments at various levels (country, region, implementing partners, specific projects); overlay existing data over heat map(s) of MNCH indicators (datasets will be provided); allow feeding in of results and impacts data from MNCH partners (e.g. via the Canadian Network on MNCH which is advancing work in this area).

Linking IATI and trace-ability

None of the Canadian CSO implementing partners involved in the Muskoka-MNCH initiative is currently publishing data to the IATI standard (something we hope to change). This makes it difficult to get a complete view of the funding and project cycles just by looking at IATI. However many organizations make project details available through their own channels, and through other reporting (including results and impact tracking systems). We estimate that about 50% of the resources Canadian partners invest in initiatives related to Muskoka-MNCH comes from sources other than official donors (i.e. directly from Canadians, through voluntary contributions). This share is currently not in view whether we use IATI or other Canadian data sources.

For the purposes of this project however, there are other implementing partners through which Canadian Muskoka-MNCH funding is channeled, that are already publishing to IATI. These include multilateral partners such as UNICEF, UNDP, WFP, UNFPA, the GAVI alliance,  the Global Fund, the World Bank and others. As a first step we would like to see if and to what extent project details related to Muskoka-MNCH funding show up in these implementing partner’s IATI publication? We would also like to check the degree to which Muskoka-MNCH projects show up in Canadas (i.e. DFTAD’s) own IATI publication? To do this we will work with a reference list of specific and unique project IDs (which are consistent across our Canadian sources, the DAC-CRS and IATI). (Additional details about the project level data related to Muskoka MNCH will be provided).

We have a number of objectives with this challenge. Through this challenge we will experiment with the often talked about, but insufficiently demonstrated concept of aid funding cycle ‘trace-ability’. An example of this (the only one out there to our knowledge) is the UK DFID’s Global Poverty Action Fund link up. Our expectations and ambition however are more limited, because the level of information available is limited. In our particular use-case, we would like to see if we can join up our Canadian and other Muskoka-MNCH relevant data with implementing partner data on Muskoka-MNCH projects? How far can we get in this regard given the current state of publication? Put another way, what percentage share of any $1 in the ‘supply chain’ of Muskoka-MNCH funding is visible?

Linked-data and interoperability 

As described above, the challenge will also wade into the hugely exciting and promising terrain of joined-up or linked open data. There is already plenty of useful work out there in this area, including scoping studies specifically on connecting transparency initiatives like IATI. Again, for our particular use-case and given the limited amount of time, we have more limited (and hopefully more realistic) expectations in terms of joining relevant data. Can we for instance join Muskoka-MNCH data (from our Canadian DFATD sources, the DAC-CRS or from IATI) with country level (and or sub-national) health indicator data, to create base layers for a map, on which we can then plot Muskoka-MNCH projects? Health indicator data, while patchy, is available from a number of sources such as the WHO, UNICEF’s pioneering Childinfo.org, and other sources. However, the easiest source to work with is the World Bank’s Health Stats portal as it makes data available in a wide range of formats including a live API. Demonstrating how this can be sourced and used alongside IATI level Muskoka-MNCH project data, in a “live” manner, would be  an interesting and useful experiment in leveraging IATI alongside other open data to drive greater insights into Muskoka-MNCH.

For instance the data, and or visualization and analysis of the same, could be used to answer questions like whether Muskoka-MNCH is well targeted; i.e. is funding going to countries most in need, as can be seen from the scale of the problem, the trends in addressing the challenges, and availability of resources (i.e. the level and composition of health expenditure)?

As open data grows, finding solutions to the increasingly recognized “interoperability” challenge becomes ever more important.  We expect to shed more light on the same. (As a backup, we will wrap all data into easy to use Google Fusion Tables and post it for use).

Contributions to improving the IATI standard 

An expected contribution of the challenge is that it will help strengthen the IATI standard. As we have demonstrated earlier, Muskoka-MNCH, given its high profile, generates interest from a range of stakeholders. However it has no clear corresponding ‘coding’ or ‘marker’ in IATI or other donor data. Given the level of progress that has been made in opening aid data, especially in Canada, viewers expect to be able to get up to date information on this, the single largest Canadian aid initiative, at various levels of aggregation. But this is currently not possible, despite IATI.

The project contributes towards improving the IATI standard in several ways: first, by demonstrating how the standard can be extended to cover signature donor initiatives so that these can be easily highlighted. Second, by finding ways to link results and impact information from implementing partners that may not (or inadequately) feature in the IATI feed. We aim to demonstrate how the standard can be improved to better feature richer results and impact information. Third, and ultimately, we’d like to be able to demonstrate how $1 in Muskoka-MNCH aid funding can be traced, from donor to implementing partner to beneficiary, alongside the scale of the problems (health indicators).

See Data and Technical Details for the Muskoka-MNCH Tracker project here.

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