Open Standards and APIs used in International Aid Organizations

Posted on September 24th, 2014

Many humanitarian organizations, from The World Bank to the International Aid Transparency Initiative, have integrated principles of open information into their mission and efforts. They believe that an investment in better, open information is an investment in better, open development.The World Bank works to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity in the developing world. Open development is about making information and data freely available and searchable, encouraging feedback, information-sharing, and accountability. The World Bank is also working to make their data, knowledge and research more open, to foster innovation and increase transparency in development, aid flows and finances.

The World Bank currently has three different APIs that enable access to different datasets: one for Indicators (or time series data), one for Projects (or data on the World Bank’s operations), and one for the World Bank financial data (World Bank Finances API). All three APIs implement RESTful interfaces to allow users to perform queries of available data using selection parameters. The World Bank Indicators API lets users programmatically access more than 8,000 indicators and query the data in several ways, using defined parameters to narrow searches and requests.

Similar to The World Bank, Openaid.se is a web-based information service about Swedish aid built on open government data. They are working to combat poverty and understand that a key part of their success lies in open and transparent access to information and collaboration with others on ideas. They guarantee that public documents and public information about Swedish aid is made available on the web in both Swedish and English. The hub for statistics and documents about Swedish development cooperation will soon be moving to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) Standard API.

The IATI makes information about aid spending easier to access, use and understand. IATI Standard is the accompanying technical publishing framework allowing data to be compared. One of the standards in place is the IATI codelists, Numerical codes are used to represent many standard values in an IATI data file, which ensure the information is comparable among different publishers.

The IATI APIs include the IATI Datastore, online service that gathers all data published to the IATI standard into a single queryable source; OIPA, used for parsing, ingesting, storing and searching IATI standard compliant datasets; and AidData, which allows for programmatic access to the catalogue of AidData information.

Challenges of the IATI APIs and other international aid open information sources include timely and forward looking data, data quality, access and use of data, and governance.  For more information on open standards and APIs used to improve public service delivery in the developing world, check out this Slideshare.

The author, Pernilla Näsfors, is a Development Data Specialist at the World Bank, helping recipients of aid to open and standardize the data in their country systems. At the Nordic APIs Stockholm conference on March 31, 2014, Näsfors shared her experiences working with other international aid donors and local governments at the World Bank, as well as insights from her previous job as the product manager of the Openaid.se website at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), one of the first Swedish government websites with an open API.

 

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