Comparing different IATI data publishing and validation tools
From January 2021, Aidstream, a popular International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) publishing tool, will charge for publishing more than 20 (project) activities. What are your alternatives for publishing tools and options to keep all of the fantastic financials and project results visible in the public domain against the international IATI standard?
IATI have compiled a list with some of your options, but we have also collected a list of suggestions for you, to see if one (or many) of the options below suits your budget, time available and organisational size.
Section A: Options for publishing your data to IATI
Publishing natively: you can upload your XML data set to the IATI registry directly if you have enough knowledge of XML and of the data standard to produce a valid dataset (you will need to validate your data against the standard using a validation tool). There is a handy IATI publishing checklist and the option to submit support requests to the IATI helpdesk. However, there will be a learning curve if this is the first time you are publishing to the standard.
Aidstream is a widely used publishing tool that now charges you to publish over 20 projects (known as activities) at a cost starting at $1,500 per year. It is a good option for smaller organisations without too many projects to publish, since you can then use it for free. You can upload data in bulk using CSV or add it manually, and it also has multi-user team options where you can log into the same website interface from various locations. There are also discounts for organisations based in the ‘global south’.
Spreadsheet2IATI Service by Data4Development will charge you (a bit more than Aidstream) to support your IATI publishing. The service uses spreadsheet templates where you input your data to then convert your spreadsheets to XML. In addition, the service includes helpful feedback on the data quality and adherence to donor guidelines (such as the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office). There are different tiers of services provided depending on the complexity of your data, as well as a helpdesk and training service offered. You will retain ownership of the data. There are also discounts for organisations based in the ‘global south’.
Building something bespoke to publish to IATI using your own internal systems is probably the biggest initial outlay of expenditure, but could be cost-effective in the long run to line up internal reporting systems at large organisations with the IATI standard. There are open-source models you can replicate from Github (for example from DFID) but you will likely need to rely on web developers or in-house technical support to build an application. There could be future costs too, such as upgrades to the system/API if the standard changes over time and the current version depreciates.
Another option is to procure a wider Project Management application or Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL) tool for your project, programme or organisation that integrates publishing to IATI as one of its many functions. If you have the budget, dedicated personnel, and you have the time to build some of the foundations using existing project parameters, this could a good option for you to streamline systems.
You will likely have procurement checklists to follow, but some questions to consider when choosing a tool like this might include: can I trial a demo version? is it GDPR compliant? will it work on lower bandwidth? is it multi-user? is the software open source? is the cloud system based on a green server? is there a support team? is the service provider a business or non-profit? and do I retain ownership of the data?
Wider tools that integrate IATI publising:
- Project Connect with an optional module on IATI, pricing available on request
- TolaData is a user friendly and relatively cheap tool (pricing starts at 99 Euro a month) with a built in validated IATI switch, IATI pricing available on request
- NGO Online can be aligned with the IATI standard, pricing is available on request
- Akvo RSR (really simple reporting) is free to use if you have the coding skills (as the code is available on Github), or the platform starts at 25,000 Euro
- DevResults has tiered pricing starting at $2,400 with a $28,800 set up fee
- AmpImpact has a new IATI integration, pricing is available on request
Section B: Options for checking and validating your IATI data
Depending on the tool or method you choose to publish your data (and what this already involves in terms of checking data quality), you might want to validate your data against the standard before you hit the publish button. There are various options for doing this and the IATI data validator is the most useful tool for checking your data ahead of time. You will need to know how to correct any errors or complete missing data as result of identifying any problems though. The IATI Canary is another useful tool if you want to check your datasets are still complete over time, it might also be helpful if you are carrying out due diligence on a potential partner, or want to see how transparent a government donor really is!
Here are a few validation options:
IATI’s free data validator (built by Data4Development) checks data against the standard in an ad hoc manner using a URL, or it can check data in advance of publishing by uploading files. It comes with a useful Q&A document and the IATI team can offer technical support via the helpdesk service.
DataWorkbench IATI data Validator will validate data ad hoc or in advance of publishing, checking it against donor requirements.
D-portal’s free file checker by Development Initiatives will check your XML files for compliance with the standard before you publish to ensure it is a valid XML file.
IATI Canary by Publish What you Fund is an open-source validator that checks existing datasets for compliance, and can email you if datasets you want to follow break in the future.
Convert, Validate & Explore by Open Data Services Co-operative will help you convert file types between XML, spreadsheet or CSV, and will check whether the data is valid (you can either upload a file, add a URL or paste XML). It also provides some sample data formats for activities and organisations. It is free but there is no helpdesk service provided, and data is retained for 7-days.
Section C: Questions to consider when you are choosing a publishing process:
How much time do you really have to either upload data or learn to use new tools?
How many people will collect and check the data to publish to IATI within your team?
Do you need the system and tools in multiple languages or with translations?
Do you prefer using an online web service or would you like personal help and advice?
Do you have the time to check the data against the standard or would you prefer this was done externally?
Do you want to tie yourself into a contract? Do you have allocated project or institutional funds that will pay for a chosen tool over the lifecycle of a project for which you are committed by a donor to publish data for?
How do you publish your IATI data? If you want to get in touch with our members who publish to IATI you can join the Alliance Community discussion thread, or if you would like to chat to a member of the Alliance team to discuss the tools you use and chat more about transparency, contact the effectiveness & learning team by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
With grateful thanks to article reviewers for their comments and feedback. If you would like to provide further information or add a tool to the list, please email Laura@intdevalliance.scot
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