6 Responses

  1. Terry Franklin
    Terry Franklin July 19, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    Hi Robin, thanks for taking the time to write this piece, I found it interesting and informative to read your perspectives.

    As someone who has spent ten years developing data management and interpretation tools in the private sector, I have often wondered about the opportunities for such work in the aid/NGO space. From reading your article it seems like there are two main problems at present – one is the usability & usefulness of the tools to date, the other is the quality of the data available on which they can operate.

    What are your thoughts on a system that aims to address these two issues at the same time – that is, a system that actually enhances an organisation’s ability to manage its day-to-day operational data, while at the same time aggregating that data across participants and making it available via a suite of tools in a way that generates real intelligence and understanding of what is happening (both historically and in real-time) across a series of organisations, countries or sectors? The appeal to aid groups of using the system would be the removal of the burden of separately reporting on their activities, while at the same time collaborating with and learning from other organisations. For example, an organisation that plans to setup operations in a specific region could look at the data already aggregated for that area and make informed decisions about the most suitable vehicles, materials and so on, based on the experience of others already there. The same system also lets that organisation fulfil its reporting obligations to donors and the public, but importantly they haven’t had to duplicate their efforts. The data that they’ve recorded is just as useful to them for internal management as it is to external users. Obviously there would need to be rules in place about what level of detail can be shared, but the principle would be clear – write once and use in many ways, with collaboration & reporting built into the system itself.

    Thanks again for your article, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this idea.

  2. Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson
    Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson July 15, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    It is easy to criticise efforts that are in an early stage, like the IATI Studio or D-Portal, but as Siem correctly points out there is very limited funding available for this type of work. Building a comprehensive data solution that allows us to compare IATI data from different countries and organisations effectively is actually a fairly substantial task.

    An even bigger task is actually to get all the organisations and governments to actually report meaningful IATI data. Something which you correctly point out is slow in forthcoming.

    The organisations which are working on these type of data systems, including the one I am working with, Akvo Foundation, have been talking to quite a few funders and UN organisations about this. But there is little coordinated effort to create a source of funding where systems like this could be supported.

    Siem and his team is doing really good work with limited resources. I know this, having worked quite a lot with them early on. What the governments and organisations who have committed to publishing IATI data should do, is get together and provide funding for efforts like IATI Studio, d-portal and others, so we can get from working with data as a nice concept to actually drawing the benefits from the data.

    Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson
    Co-director, Akvo Foundation

  3. Siem Vaessen
    Siem Vaessen July 5, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    Dear Robin,

    Thanks so much for you elaborate review of IATI Studio. You are the first to provide one like it. Upon reading the review, I have read some valid points on which I would like to provide feedback, hoping this makes for a better understanding of the functional rationale behind some of the Chart Builder features and how they work. We more than welcome feedback and will take yours into consideration as well.

    First one: switching to a native currency. Your example chart is converted to USD and you get ‘no data available’ if you switch to native currency and leaving USD active, while having the context “Australian Government – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade” as reporting organisation. Your are not supposed to see anything, seeing the Australian Government reports in AUD and not USD. If you would however change the active native currency to AUD, you will obviously see your data being plotted again. Give it a run, I just duplicated your chart, changed to native currency to AUD and that worked as expected. So using native currency requires the user to make it explicit. Makes sense, right?

    With regards to the Chart Builder being basic, that has been a choice of design. This will be enhanced by providing the user with context of data in the chart (transactions, reporting orgs, receiving org. etc) so a more complete data story can be made, rather than just the one off chart.

    A final note on competition: we do not perceive D-Portal as a competitor. Comparing IATI Studio to D-Portal is a bit of comparing apples and oranges to us. A complete Studio would entail a set of different tools, with a strong data infrastructure powering those tools. And as you rightfully state: the majority of funds to IATI Studio are invested by ourselves, no donor currently supports large efforts into this data initiative or any other for that matter. Very odd, seeing how we are supposed to revolutionise data for the SDG’s.

    Do contact me if you have any questions.


    Siem Vaessen
    CEO IATI Studio

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