This event actually happened last month, but publishing my write up was delayed by the election period rules. More details of the initiative can be found on their website: Aid information challenge and the event wiki – my notes and thoughts follow:


At the Guardian offices

The event was held at the Guardian’s offices near Kings Cross, and after an initial session for introductions and ideas, people spread out around the room, and started working out their ideas. Datasets available for them to work on included data from CKAN, R4D, USAID, EU and DFID.

Applications developed are available on the website and some of my favourites were:

  • Heatmap of country by country DFID spend – still in its early days, but something to be worked on
  • Tag clouds of the frequency particular words are used in project descriptions – in a time series. No obvious purpose springs to mind, but its an interesting illustration of how the language of development evolves

We also had the opportunity to see 2 presentations – one showing the work of Akvo – a dutch water and sanitation NGO who have an interesting project whereby aid recipients or project managers can send in evidence such as photos from the field which illustrates exactly the impact the project is having; and a second one from someone involved in the open streetmap project – the work of which has already been mentioned in this blog as having had a huge impact on the humanitarian response effort in Haiti.

This was an event similar in style to the Rewired State days which have been taking place over the last couple of years. A similar level of energy and enthusiasm was present during this day, and I hope more such events will follow. If the release of data is to be more than just a box ticking exercise, people have to get together and do things with that data, proving that the behind the scenes efforts in tracking down suitable data sets and making them available in the format developers need is a worthwhile activity.

Also during this non-blogging period, and extremely relevant to this event, the World Bank released many of their data sets: available at for people to use without restriction or payment. Owen blogged about it, and already some interesting visualisations have been done.