magazine n. 1/17 – AICS joins IATI, the international standard framework for data publishing

by Emilio Ciarlo, manager of Institutional relations and Communication

• More transparency in cooperation, through quicker and clearer communication of information and data. Motivated by this ambitious goal, the Italian Agency for Cooperation and Development has joined the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), a voluntary initiative that unites 450 organisations from various countries around the world, including OECD-DAC and UNDP. In order to improve the transparency of data concerning development aid and boost the adoption of shared international standards, IATI has evolved a standard format for communicating data (IATI 2.02) which contains all information deemed necessary for electronic publication – of a rapid, complete and long-term nature – of data on the cooperation activities of single donors.

Adhering to this standard was an extremely important decision for AICS, but doing so was challenging indeed, since the adoption of such a high quality technical standard required a major updating of our Agency’s computer and management systems. We had to rethink and reinforce our entire internal management system (from SIC to SICONTA) and redefine our personal classification fields for inserting data in the light of the latest OECD-DAC indications and new sustainable development goals.

This major commitment to transparency was formally undertaken by the Agency on January 20th 2016, when it signed article 3 of the convention between AICS and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Compared to the past, when Italy was limited to an observer role in the assembly, AICS then postponed its formal adhesion to IATI from December 2016, to gain time to be able to implement both the preparatory procedures for full formal adhesion and the modification of its internal management systems, work-flows and organisation.

“These are all complex operations, which affect the organisational structure and the flow of information between different Agency offices, as well as requiring economic investment and retraining of our human resources – explains AICS Director Laura Frigenti – and they also need time to be fine-tuned during a phase of organisational start-up. We are in the middle of an operation which will conclude in the coming months: our long-term goal is to render the Agency’s activities more transparent and more participatory. The first stage of this process took place in Nairobi last November, when AICS took part in the Global Partnership Initiative and the date for our official adhesion was fixed for March 1st 2017. There are four main goals which the Agency must pursue in adhering to the AITI organisation: the sharing and promotion of the AITI vision and mission; the implementation of its standards, or the commitment to implement them within one year, and submitting this to monitoring by the Annual Report; the payment of the annual membership fee, as established by the Members’ Assembly; and making its operative skills available to the various work groups.

With formal adhesion in place, members will be able to access the IATI data register plus other correlated databases, receive support in implementing IATI standards, receive regular news and updates, share experiences in data use and other innovations in the field, as well as taking part in spending review events. And finally, the Open Aid platform will participate in the third OGP (Open Government Partnership) National Action Plan, with its Open Aid 2.0 project.”