Since the release of the High Level Panel report on the post-2015 Development Agenda, repeated calls have been made for a “data revolution”. How this is defined is not entirely clear, but there is growing consensus that as a basic principle it must be underpinned by open data, given its potential to strengthen accountability and encourage greater participation in political processes. An increasing number of governments are embracing open data as a means of sharing information, releasing local, regional and national datasets from across areas of government activity. Many governments including Canada, France, Japan, the UK and the U.S. have adopted open data charters or strategies. Merely releasing more datasets is not enough however. Without comparable, comprehensive and timely information, international and national development priorities cannot be accurately defined and monitored. Consequently, joining up different datasets, ensuring that they are standardised and data quality need to remain at the centre of future discussions on the data revolution. Crucially, lessons learnt from opening up information on development flows via a common, open standard need to be incorporated into any new open data initiatives, building on the work done to date.
Another arena where the opening up of government information is being discussed is the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Since the last OGP Summit in October 2013, its membership has expanded to include development providers such as Australia, France, Ireland and New Zealand. In the run up to the next summit scheduled for 2015, and as more countries join the partnership, it will be important to ensure that they incorporate aid transparency commitments in their national action plans and to make the link between these commitments and the priorities being defined for the post-2015 agenda.
As the focus shifts from publishing information to ensuring it can be used within the context of a renewed international development agenda, understanding different user needs is increasingly important. One of the longstanding demands made by partner countries has been for providers to align information on development flows with country budget classifications. Linking aid with budgets would allow government programmes to be planned and implemented in the context of a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of the total resources available. The ongoing piloting of the IATI budget identifier aims to help meet this demand. The next 12 months will be important for completing in-country consultations and pilots for testing the recently agreed framework for mapping donor sector codes with country budget codes. The pilot studies on data use by partner countries, being conducted by organisations such as USAID, will also highlight existing data gaps and ways in which information can be made more useful. Together, these initiatives hold great promise for unlocking the potential of IATI.