Hello again! And welcome to part two of this blog series to dig deeper into the Barometer’s data. If you have come this far, we are going to make four assumptions: first, that you are as excited as we are for the release of the results and data of this global effort to understand the state of data for public good around the world; second, that you have browsed our website to see the initial trends to understand it; third, that this is simply not enough for you, so your enthusiasm to go beyond the summarised data published on the website has led you here, reading more about how you can explore data in a more granular level, because you think, just as we do, that rankings and overall scores are only one approach to data; and the final and fourth assumption is that you have read part one and still want to become best friends with the Barometer.
Let’s start with some facts. Did you know that public finance data is the most available type of dataset around the world? Have a look:
Hands on the Barometer’s data
Let’s use this Public Finance topic for the hands-on example. You have seen the initial trends shown on GDB’s website, the scores and some justifications at a national level. You have also explored the methods and background research that explain the Barometer´s approach to this theme. Now, you should have downloaded the dataset for Public Finance from our Open Data Page. And you, an insatiable researcher, journalist, student, public official, data advocate, and/or a geek curiously exploring the web, want to learn more about the actual details on Public Finance data around the world.
With the .csv file—you now have the power to ask the data, your own questions.
First, open the file with your preferred environment. Here we accept people from all data creeds and churches: Excel, LibreOffice Calc, Numbers, R, Python, SQL, Spreadsheets, Open Refine, and so on. Now that you are comfortable and safe in your data in your environment, let’s start exploring. We know that you are interested in structured data about the government’s extrabudgetary funds spending, but be patient. We can first explore some contextual trends to then get there.
Questions you can ask the Barometer about public finance data
Okay, so public finance datasets are amongst the most published in comparison to 16 kinds of datasets, but how are these datasets? Do they meet openness standards to ease re-use, do they have all the information to understand and work with budget and spend data?
An assessment of the best and worst performing data features
The Barometer´s expert survey tracked and assessed 17 datasets in 109 countries, that is more than 1,800, to get global, regional and thematic overviews that will be helpful to inform, policies, practices and action plans. There are great differences in the availability and quality of these datasets, and Public finance ones are not the exception. Out of the 105 countries that have some kind of public finance data, 98 are free of charge, which is the best ranked feature. On the other end are the worst performing features: machine readability, open licensing and bulk data.
This is an initial analysis of selected sub questions of hierarchy level 4 in GDB database, below the subgroup of Data openness, timing, and structure, displaying the data_type “response”. If we want to know even more about how public finance data is released, we can also explore the supporting questions, for example, we can explore which kind of file types are most used: .xlsx comes first in the ranking with 46 files released among the 109 countries; then there are 40 .csv, 18 json and 9 .pdf.
What are the question´s sub-groups of the Public Finance module?
To ensure that data can be used for public good, it is also important to publish the needed kind of information and data fields, the remaining subgroups of elements for this indicator.
Kinds of data and data quality
We can also explore the sub-questions asked inside another sub-group of elements, which assesses the kinds of data covered by the dataset, and we can learn new things from that. Among all the datasets released,the kind of data that is most published is “approved or enacted budget in gross terms, including spending on annual and multi-annual investment projects”, with 92 countries publishing this kind of data in some form. Then we have “executive budget proposal in gross terms, including spending on annual and multi-annual investment projects” (89) and “government budget execution or spending, in gross terms and on an accrual basis, including spending in annual and multi-annual investment projects” (84). Among the information most difficult to find there are the “public corporations’ spending, in gross terms and on an accrual basis” (50), and “amended budgets (when applicable) or amendments of the enacted budget” (51).
Along with the kind of information that is available, data and entries have to follow some rules to ease the re-use and analysis of public finance data, and these features have also been assessed by the Barometer. For example, in 83 countries “Budget entries have administrative classifications to an internationally agreed standard” and in 80 countries “Budget entries have economic classifications to an internationally agreed standard”. However, “Data is disaggregated by cross-cutting programs, or issues such as SDGs, climate action, gender budgeting, etc” in only 22 countries .
A closer look at a variable: Extrabudgetary data
Now, it’s your turn
After this exciting data ride, which we began from a very general level of information, then we explored how those levels are composed and what kind of questions we can ask the Barometer’s database, we hope you now have a better understanding as to how the indicator’s scores are built, and how we were able to get to the numbers displayed on the GDB website.