OpenAid Public online monitoring for better development aid
Open Knowledge Foundation

Where are these projects? Geocoding is possible!

18 Aug 2010
Posted by Claudia Schwegmann
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If your government is receiving aid, you may want to know in detail how much money is given by the donors, for what purposes and particularly where exactly the donor-funded projects are operating. However, until now, such information is close to impossible to obtain for people not directly involved with a project. As a citizen in a development country you may be unaware of a health project in your area and you may not know the construction work on the main road is part of an aid project. This is a problem, because if people on the ground do not have information about aid projects, they cannot provide feedback about the project. Feedback, however is widely recognised as crucial to improve aid, to curb corruption, and to enhance effectiveness. One solution to this problem is geocoding - entering the exact latitude and longitude of a project into a software program that visualises the geographic position of a project on a map. In the past, as Björn Sören Gigler of the World Bank explains, geocoding has often been described as difficult and costly. However, in a recent initiative of the World Bank, Development Gateway and AidData, all World Bank projects in Africa and Latin America have been geocoded in about seven weeks. Geocoding is not impossible. Once this geographical data is visualised on a map, the flow of aid funds becomes much more transparent at a subnational level. It is possible to see whether aid is more directed to urban centers or rural areas, which communities benefit and which don't. Geocoded project information allows citizens, parliamentarians, government staff and donors in these countries to monitor aid to some extent. Without such information, civil society cannot hold governments and donors to account, let alone participate actively in projects and defend its interests. If donors are serious about participation and civil society involvement in development cooperation, citizens need more information in an accessible way. Information alone is not sufficient, but without information participation will remain an empty promise.
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