Introducing the new Open Development Toolkit site!
We’re very happy to launch today a new website for the Open Development Toolkit, which which includes a number of new features to help people make use of, and contribute to, the project.
When the project began in early 2014, the project brief was fairly open; since then, after speaking to various members of the Open Development community, attending events such as the IATI TAG meeting, and doing a thorough assessment of what is already going on in the community, we’ve narrowed down the project aims, and target audience, considerably. With regards to the target audience, we’re now considering two main, broad demographics: data users, and development agencies/donors.
By ‘data users’, we’re considering primarily infomediaries in aid recipient countries; civil society and journalists, who could be using development data in their work. They’re in a position to be able to understand the data with local context, and convey their findings to their communities in an effective way. We want to make it as easy as possible for them to find and use aid data portals that already exist, as well as develop their technical skills in accessing, and using, raw aid data to facilitate their work.
With regards to development agencies and donors, we’re looking specifically at those who are thinking of making their data available online; rather than building new portals from scratch and creating proprietary tools, we’d like to encourage them to build upon what has already been created, share and take into account lessons learned, and contribute to the community with their tool/portal creation. Especially where tools have been built with public funds (eg. development arms of governments) we see no reason for these tools to remain closed source and proprietary.
The new site includes a curated list of Tools, which allow the user to understand, visualise or access aid data in various ways. Each ‘Tool’ presented on the site with a short description of what it does, along with its main strengths and weaknesses, and each one is classified with a number of tags, stating the perceived skill level required (beginner, intermediate, or advanced), the data source used by the tool, as well as its ‘theme’ (eg. global overview, donor specific, recipient country, donor government). The tagging system allows users to search for tools by what they’re wanting to focus on – for example, looking into the activities of a certain donor agency, or taking a closer look at projects taking place in a particular aid recipient country.
Each tool also has a second tab, explaining how the tool was made. We’re putting special focus on the tools which are already open source, and by putting the name of the developer(s) who have worked on these tools along with their contact details, we hope to make it as easy as possible for more work to be commissioned which will build upon their expertise.
Another focus of the site is to bring together people who have worked on building the tools from a technical perspective, along with people working in development agencies, and the potential users of the data; the whole ‘development data’ ecosystem, in a way.
On the Community page, anyone active in the Open Development space is encouraged to create a profile, (for now, via filling in this Google form), with their contact details and a short biography, either as an individual or as an organisation. Activities of organisations and individuals can be seen on their profile pages, for example, tools that they have built or contributed to, blog posts that they have written, and people/organisations with whom they have collaborated.
We hope that highlighting the work that people have done within the Open Development community, along with their collaborations, will facilitate further collaboration, and encourage organisations to call upon community expertise when developing new tools.
As well as displaying the tools and work that have already been created within the community and encouraging collaboration, we also want to support civil society and journalists to get the skills they need to use development data in their work, as mentioned above. We’ll be doing this by working with School of Data to create an Aid Curriculum, made up of various modules on technical skills required to work with aid data.
Ideally, we’d like to build upon training materials that have already been created in the sector, and make them available for remixing and reuse by others in the future; we’ll be encouraging people to try them out in workshops and training sessions, and we’d love to get feedback on how they have best been used, so we can iterate and improve upon them in the future. The curriculum will also be available online for people to work through at their own pace.
Last, but not least – the site includes a blog, where we’ll be posting on topics such as uses of development data by civil society or journalists, lessons learned during the software development of data portals, and other issues surrounding data use within the global development sector. We welcome submissions to the blog – take a look here to see other topics, and how to contribute.