In an attempt to make data transparent and accessible, AidData is a source that aims to improve development programs and policies around the world. Their approach is innovative, as they use satellite technology in addition to household surveys instead of randomized control trials to gather their data and information on the initiatives across the globe. They make a lot of data publicly available ranging from a database on World Bank projects, US-Kenya cash flows, to a survey that collected feedback from policymakers, practitioners and leaders in low- and middle-income countries on development priorities. Specifically, they have five main programs: Listening to Leaders, GeoQuery, Transparent Development Footprints, Chinese Development Finance, and Geospatial Impact Evaluations.
The Geospatial Impact Evaluations program is the basis and method of most of the data research they provide. The Geospatial Impact Evaluations evaluates the impacts and cost-effectiveness of specific development interventions and large investment portfolios with spatial data. Their technology leverages readily available data, like satellite observations or household surveys, to establish a reliable counterfactual for measuring impacts. Traditionally, randomized controlled trials (RCT) take much more time and are more expensive to run; thus, this innovation provides us with data otherwise relatively unavailable.
The Transparent Development Footprints program is focused on quantifying China’s activities, impact of public diplomacy, and influence on foreign leaders. It has a series of reports, blogs and shows upcoming global events relating to the issue. Available on their website is a dashboard that allows viewers to interact with data from AidData’s reports on China’s different public diplomacy: financial, cultural, elite-to-elite, exchange and informational. It also includes data on how China is perceived by other leaders that interact with China’s public diplomacy efforts. With this dashboard, one can create their own data set and view data they are particularly interested in by type of diplomacy, region, or time period.
The Listening to Leaders program collects feedback from leaders in low and middle-income countries on development to motivate AidData’s research and make the needs of countries seeking development transparent and to inspire evidence-based policy making. AidData collects feedback from leaders on development priorities, progress, and performance.
GeoQuery is a tool that enables anyone to access a large selection of satellite, economic, health, conflict, and other spatial data based on the country. Any individual can then download selected data into excel or any programming software file type.
Finally, their Chinese Development Finance program aims to tackle the data gap in Chinese investment. Because Chinese donors and lenders rarely disclose the specifics of their loans and initiatives, it makes it incredibly difficult to track, monitor, understand the activity and impact China is having across the globe. AidData aims to systematically track the Chinese government financed development projects in order to help researchers quantify the impact China is making.
AidData is aiming to answer questions like: Which roads being built have contributed to economic growth? How are infrastructure projects changing inequality in countries? How can we quantify the nature and impact of China’s soft power in Asia?
In terms of data specifically on African countries, the China Diplomacy Dashboard, focused completely on Asia, has no information on Africa or diplomacy efforts in African Countries. In the Listening to Leaders reports, they generally report on the average of countries stratified by income level (low, middle, and high) but do not specifically report data on regional or country specific trends. However, the GeoQuery tool offers extensive public data on countries in Africa. Through GeoQuery, data sets vary greatly, from population density and child mortality rates by province within a country, to levels of precipitation or carbon dioxide. Additionally, the Chinese Development Finance data sets provide investments China has made across the world, including countries within Africa. Within these data sets, investments in affordable housing projects are limited but can be found. More information on the data available on affordable housing from this source can be found here.
Overall, AidData is an incredible source, and an outlier in terms of its methodology and what it is able to quantify for researchers and changemakers in the development sector. It is making data previously unobtainable, available and accessible.
AidData. About AidData (2022) https://www.aiddata.org/about (Accessed 13 June 2022).
AidData. Transparent Development Footprints (2022) https://www.aiddata.org/tdf (Accessed 13 June 2022).
AidData. Listening to Leaders (2022) https://www.aiddata.org/ltl (Accessed 13 June 2022).
AidData. Chinese Development Finance (2022) https://www.aiddata.org/cdfp (Accessed 13 June 2022).
AidData. Geospatial Impact Evaluations (2022) https://www.aiddata.org/gie (Accessed 13 June 2022).
AidData. GeoQuery (2022) https://www.aiddata.org/geoquery (Accessed 13 June 2022).