LILONGWE, November 14, 2013—Malawi is an aid dependent country with 60% to 80% of its development budget financed by external sources. Aid and development work are critical for the country as it tries to reduce its poverty headcount from the current 52%, and also meet four of the eight Millennium Development Goals that it is unlikely to meet. Recently, the country has had governance issues where huge amounts of public funds were fraudulently accessed by government officers. These factors make transparency more important than ever.
In line with its quest to enhance aid transparency, the Malawi government recently hosted a workshop to engage stakeholders in using open data for evidence-based policy, with support from the Open Aid Partnership (OAP), the World Bank Group and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). During the workshop, the government launched its Aid Management Platform (AMP), a system built by Development Gateway which makes detailed information on development programs fully open to the public for the first time. With no law readily empowering citizens to access information, tools such as the AMP provide anyone, anywhere, access to timely and comprehensive data on donor-financed projects in Malawi.
“Greater transparency of development activities would help Malawi to guard against further corruption and waste in the use of development resources,” said Minister of Finance Maxwell Mkwezalamba, who presided over the launch. He also emphasized that while Malawi is at the forefront of aid transparency efforts, “we need to ensure that we live up to this billing.”
The platform also incorporates a geocoding component that helps development partners to enter data on the precise locations of the projects they finance. This information would help policymakers in Malawi address vital questions, such as whether resources are aligned with the country’s development goals, and if such resources are being used to target the poorest communities as efficiently and effectively as possible.
After the launch, more than 70 government officials and representatives from development partners, civil society and the media came together to raise awareness and promote the use of Malawi’s open data for development planning, coordination and citizen engagement. Participants emphasized the need for policymakers not only to improve the quantity and quality of data provided, but also to integrate data from AMP and other open data sources into planning and coordination mechanisms, such as Malawi’s new Development Cooperation Strategy.
Participants agreed that the next steps would be to begin linking Malawi’s open data sources, such as AMP, the National Statistical Office and the Malawi Spatial Data Portal for better information sharing, and to initiate deeper engagement with other providers of development assistance, such as emerging markets, foundations, non-government organizations (NGOs) and the private sector.
Open Aid Partnership in Malawi
The OAP is a multi-stakeholder initiative that brings together governments, development partners, civil society organizations and the private sector to promote open development and improve aid transparency and effectiveness. One of the immediate goals of the partnership is to strengthen the capacity of partner countries to collect, publish and use development data in ways that engage citizens and other stakeholders in evidence-based conversations on development.
The OAP’s partnership with Malawi helps to further the World Bank Group’s strategy in Malawi to mainstream governance for development effectiveness by strengthening government systems and engaging citizens in providing effective public oversight.
“This will ensure policymakers focus on issues concerning the daily lives of their citizens, while enabling stronger, more systematic, data-driven policymaking at all levels,” said Jeff Thindwa, Manager, World Bank Institute’s Social Accountability Practice. Malawi was one of the first countries to host a Data Literacy Bootcamp earlier this year to strengthen the capacity of media and civil society organizations to access and make effective use of open data in Malawi. The country is also the first to host a workshop to engage policymakers around the use of open data.