This summer, five other LBJ interns and I will be working at Development Gateway (DG) in Washington, DC. This work is under a partnership between the Strauss Center at UT and AidData, and involves geo-coding into one database African development projects from various international donors. The work during this leg will involve coding for projects in Malawi.
Aid has traditionally been given out piecemeal, with each donor funding separate projects where and how they see fit. Now, this partnership is mapping out that aid, locating each project by its geographic coordinates. By geo-referencing each development project and putting the results together in a single source, this work will promote coordination, cooperation, and just simple information sharing between donors. But more than that, it could allow aid to be targeted at the places that need it the most – whether the poorest or the most vulnerable to climate change. I certainly hope that it will lead to more targeted aid giving, as well as more effective aid spending.
I’m particularly interested in the large energy and water infrastructure projects that have been put into place in Malawi and the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa. Over the course of the summer, I hope to learn more about how these types of projects can bring even larger-scale change for some of the people that need it most.
As for Washington – I’ve never been to the capitol before now, but from my few days here it looks like there won’t be much problem filling any spare time. In fact, it seems that DC is as full of sights to see as it is of Starbucks – apparently no small feat!
My internship with Development Gateway (DG) in Washington D.C. is off to a great start. First of all, I love this city. As an international development professional and a news/politics junkie it feels great to be at the heart of the action. I am living in an apartment in Georgetown with three other LBJ students. Savin and Anustubh work with me at DG and Jessica Tibbets works at the State Department. Our apartment is one block off M Street and 100 meters from the Potomac River. Morning runs along the riverside trails and evening picnics in the riverside park have already begun. My first day at work was 31 May and that evening the Washington Area LBJ Alumni Chapter coordinated a happy hour that was a big hit and a great way to kick off my summer here.
Development Gateway is in the middle of the downtown D.C. scene. We are across the street from the IMF and the World Bank, so we go over to their cafeteria to eat lunch. If I ever see Robert Zoellick there I will pull up a seat next to him and then I will really have something to blog about. The work I am doing for DG is geocoding all of the donor aid that is being given to the country of Malawi, Africa. It is one of the first projects of its kind and when it is successful, other countries will hopefully want to do the same. Basically, the government of Malawi provided documentation related to every project that uses donor funding. There are 33 donors and hundreds of projects across all sectors – health, education, economic development, infrastructure, agriculture and governance. I read through the project documents, identify where the money is being spent (cities, villages, districts, etc.) and capture that information so that the project can be mapped using GIS (Geographic Information System).
A similar effort was made last year and resulted in the World Bank’s “Mapping for Results” platform – For this effort, the team mapped every project in the world that the World Bank funded. Our current work will produce similar output, but for every donor and every project in Malawi. Many groups benefit from the work we are doing. Donors are better able to assess the needs of Malawi and guide funds to areas that are underserved. The government of Malawi will be able to identify gaps in donor-funded services and respond accordingly. But most importantly, the people of Malawi will benefit by getting the right services where they are needed the most. I am very much looking forward to all of the work and play I will doing in D.C. this summer!