The World Bank last month launched the Open Budgets Portal, its new knowledge product and first effort to create a one-stop shop for budget data worldwide.
The Portal was launched on December 17, 2013 at an event on “Boosting Fiscal Transparency for Better Policy Outcomes,” held in Washington, DC in the United States.
The Bank hopes that the project will bring visibility to countries’ efforts in the field of open budgets, facilitating access and promoting use of spending data, and motivating other countries into action.
The portal, according to the Bank, offers the opportunity to showcase a subset of developing countries and sub-national entities that have excelled in the exploration of new frontiers of fiscal transparency by choosing to disseminate their entire public spending datasets in accessible formats, namely soft copy, with the expectation that these efforts could motivate other countries into action .
Users of the Portal will be able to download the entire public expenditure landscape of the members of the portal in consolidated files, all of which the Bank says were rigorously collected, cleaned and verified through the BOOST Initiative.
The BOOST initiative is a Bank-wide collaborative effort launched in 2010 to facilitate access to budget data and promote effective use for improved decision-making processes, transparency and accountability.
Currently deployed in about 40 countries globally, the appeal of the BOOST approach is that it provides user-friendly platforms where all expenditure data can be easily accessed, often in conjunction with non-financial indicators, and used by researchers, government officials and ordinary citizens to examine trends in allocations of public resources, analyze potential sources of inefficiencies, and become better informed about how governments finance the delivery of public services.
For each of the countries, the site also includes links to their original open data portals, which provide additional important information, such as higher frequencies other than annual, links to output data and other socio economic indicators, etc.
The Bank says although every effort has been made to certify the quality of the databases according to BOOST approach and methodology, users are encouraged to refer back to the country-owned open data portals to ensure complete consistency of data with published official figures, as well as consult accompanying user manuals for potential caveats on uses of the data.
The Bank says the Open Budgets Portal represents a starting point to build momentum within the growing interest around fiscal transparency and the importance of data for enhanced decision-making processes and improved budget outcomes and accountability.
According to the Bank, while most initiatives on open budgets rightfully center on availability of key documents, little focus has been given to the quality of data dissemination and to the importance of its analytical use for incorporation into evidence-based decision-making processes.
The Portal therefore aims to fill this gap by providing access to budget data worldwide and particularly to the most disaggregated and comprehensive data collected through the BOOST Initiative.
The portal combines this information with a variety of tools, manuals, reports and best practices aimed at stimulating use by intermediaries, as well as easier to interpret visualization for non-experts.
The Bank says its objective is to encourage all potential uses of the data to unbind the analytical power of such data.
The Portal is accessible here.