A GIS First Step Towards Open Data in USAID Grant Requirements

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Have you read the recent USAID/Malawi RFA for The Girls’ Empowerment through Education and Health Activity (ASPIRE)? There on page 13, wedged between the communications strategy and place of performance, were two whole paragraphs on the need for respondents to submit Geographic Information System data on their projects.

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USAID Malawi is currently rolling out a Mission wide GIS to support informed decision making and increase the use of evidence to affect decisions and resource allocations across the portfolio. This will include elements of data management, standardization and collection using global positioning system hand held receivers (GPS Units) to capture geo-referenced location data of activities, etc. All new awards (where appropriate) are required to collect and provide spatial data, and the use of GIS for spatial data development and reporting should be included.
The recipient must provide electronic primary data sets to the USAID/Malawi AOR. All locations where implementation is occurring must be geo-referenced (schools, villages and households, etc). At a minimum, data must be provided in an MS Excel sheet with latitude and longitude locations in decimal degree format and include District and TA/SC location names and other attribute data that will be agreed upon in coordination with the AOR in consultation with the recipient. USAID/Malawi prefers the submission of data in the ESRI shape file format with an associated meta data file.
Now there is an interesting history to this specific call for GIS data. Back in the day, AidData geocoded all aid projects in Malawi with the World Bank, that set off an explosion of interest in GIS as a tool for decision making in development. The Government of Malawi has continued this trend with a public GIS portal on aid spending and USAID is doing its best to support that effort.
So while this isn’t USAID directly requiring Open Data, it is supporting an Open Data initiative. And kudos to them for taking a first step towards requiring Open Data in development!