The website AidData.org is designed to make it easier for researchers, reporters, and anyone else for that matter, to answer that question for themselves. Established in 2009 through a joint partnership of the College of William & Mary, Brigham Young University, and the nonprofit organization Development Gateway, the site provides a growing searchable database of global foreign aid distribution. It is all part of an effort to make hard data on the allocation of foreign aid money easier to obtain. For example, anyone who wants to know how much money the United States invested in Bangladesh for food security in 2009 can simply use the database filters and find the answer here.
The foreign aid information collected on AidData is not limited to the United States. The site compiles information from countries across the globe, using data going back to 1945. Users who want to know more about where foreign aid money goes can just as easily find out how much money Norway invested in Cambodia for health-related programs in 1996. Filters allow users to search by donor country, recipient country, type of program, and date.
The site was the brainchild of an undergraduate student at the College of William & Mary in 2003. In researching his honors thesis on the distribution of foreign aid for environmental assistance, he found it extremely difficult to find specific numbers. He got the idea to compile all of this information in a single database. With help from three professors, he managed to secure a series of grants and partnerships that eventually led to the establishment of the AidData organization and website. To date, the site includes information on 3,000 aid projects in 144 recipient countries, for a total of about 35,000 locations across the globe.
According to AidData founders, the goal of this innovative initiative to increase transparency and accessibility of foreign aid data is to “improve the quality of research on aid allocation and aid effectiveness.” Because of AidData’s work, reliable answers to the question “where does foreign aid money go?” are now just a few keystrokes away on the web.
– Délice Williams