In October 2013, ODC and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs established a collaborative partnership to aggregate data and describe trends regarding Cambodia’s donors and development assistance. This partnership is tied to SIPA’s Workshop in Development Practice, a course for second-year, Master’s degree students in the Economic and Political Development (EPD) concentration.
A key strength of the workshop is its encouragement for students to explore the intersection of development concerns with human rights, corporate social responsibility, humanitarian affairs, conflict resolution, education, public health, gender, environmental policy, entrepreneurship and private sector development, and traditional and new media.
Since the signing of the Paris Peace Accord in 1991, Cambodia has received substantial development aid from international and bilateral financial institutions, governments and agencies. While development partners are increasingly offering websites providing information and data related to their assistance, there has been no attempt to aggregate that data into a single website for public or academic use. Nor is there any way to view and analyze donor data in relation to other developments in real time.
ODC’s Development Assistance section fills this gap. The section will aggregate and provide ODC users (among them development partners, civil servants, NGO workers, researchers, students, and the public) with facts, data, news, and documents related to development assistance in Cambodia. The aim is to facilitate research and analysis by a wide range of players while also informing policy-makers’ decisions. The page is expected to describe various kinds of assistance (multi-lateral, bilateral, and foundation) and illuminate the contributions of a wide range of donors to Cambodia.
A beta version of the DDA page is expected to launch in 2014.
Author: Rachana Kumar
As we arrived at Phnom Penh in early January 2014, my first impression was that it feels like Bangalore of my childhood. The weather was perfect, there were houses with huge trees and of course motos everywhere. The similarities didn’t end there, I realized I had a Khmer name. I was so glad that everyone was getting my name right, for the first time outside South Asia.
The similarities and nostalgia was great but as graduate students from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Alissa, Yigit and I were there to initiate a Donors and Development Assistance (DDA) section of the ODC website. This trip was for fact-finding and assessment that was aimed to gather the bulk of information needed for the team to work on the project in New York from mid-January until mid-March.
In this vein the team had two core objectives before embarking on the trip. First, getting to know and understanding the ODC’s principles, approach to open data, planning for the current and future DDA content and most importantly ODC’s internal workings. This latter point also included developing a sense of ODC’s human, time and technical capacities.
Second objective required SIPA Team members to make an initial assessment of what stakeholders in the development assistance in Cambodia could be expecting from a DDA section. For this purpose, SIPA ODC Team aimed to gather content/user related feedback and suggestions from donors, umbrella NGO organizations and certain user groups like grassroots organizations, students and academics.
To achieve our objectives we had several meetings with both internal and external stakeholders. We met representatives from different organizations ranging from USAID, ADB to The NGO Forum on Cambodia and Youth Council of Cambodia. Through these meeting not only did we develop a better understanding of development assistance in Cambodia but also got useful feedback on the ODC website. The January trip was absolutely critical for us to understand the socio-political and cultural context of our project. All the information gathered made us question some of our project’s underlying assumptions and gave a better sense of intended direction.
The other three team members, Jessa, Maria-Paula and Oddur, made the trip to Phnom Penh from New York for two weeks in March 2014 to present our initial recommendations and get feedback from, ODC staff and other key stakeholders, and to conduct additional field research as needed. They conducted interviews, focus groups and follow-up work for the project. They bopped all around town meeting with a whole host of stakeholders, including several local NGO’s, to get opinions and insights into the development assistance landscape in Cambodia as well as feedback on our work. All in all, the March trip proved to be very productive for the project and marked the start of its final phase.
Apart from a great professional learning experience our team enjoyed the Khmer hospitality, the beautiful heritage and getting to know all the wonderful people working at the ODC! As first of its kind open data project in Southeast Asia, ODC will enhance Cambodia’s development and sustainability benefiting all segments of its society. In spite of the challenges in open data and the region, the amazing ODC team has the potential to make a lasting impression in open data and on development landscape in South East Asia.