In order for the results data reported here to be truly useful, we need to know what the indicator being reported on means.
The current activity/result schema includes a few attributes for describing an indicator:
/iati-activities/iati-activity/result/@type (count vs percentage)
/iati-activities/iati-activity/result/@aggregation-status (suitable for aggregation vs not)
In practice much more information is needed to fully describe an indicator and how it is used. For example, the standard USAID performance indicator reference sheet includes:
- Indicator title
- Precise definition
- Unit of measure (e.g. individuals, hours, dollars, km, etc.)
- How the indicator is to be disaggregated
- Rationale or justification
- Data source
- Method of data collection and construction
- Reporting frequency
- Where the indicator fits within the organization's results framework
Other vocabularies have additional types of data and narrative associated with an indicator:
- Short version of title
- Direction of improvement (whether higher or lower values are desired)
- Numerator definition
- Denominator definition
- Formula (for indicators that are computed from other indicators)
- Display format (whole number, decimal number, percentage, ratio, X per thousand/million, etc.)
- Indicator type (e.g. input vs output vs impact)
- Sector tags
- Other keywords
- Reference URLs
- Geographical reporting level
- Status (e.g. active vs deprecated)
- Data quality notes
- Strengths, limitations
- Data review process
In addition, other indicators (in the same vocabulary, or in other vocabularies) might be related to this indicator in various specific ways.
- A is subset of B
- A is superset of B
- A is computed from B (most commonly, B is the numerator or denominator of A)
- A is referenced by B (likewise)
- A is identical to B
- A is similar to B (e.g. measures the same thing in a different way)
Disaggregation requirements also need to be defined precisely.
- Ideally the disaggregation definitions include canonical vocabularies for the names of the disaggregation factors (e.g. sex, age, crop) and the names of the acceptable subsets (e.g. male, female), along with accepted synonyms (sex = gender, male = m = boy = man = men) and translations of these terms into other languages.
- It may be necessary to indicate which disaggregations are required by the organization being reported to.
- In cases of multiple parallel disaggregations, it may be necessary to designate one of the disaggregations as disabled.
That's all a lot of information. It doesn't make sense to embed the full definition of the indicator along with each data point. Instead, we recommend delegating the indicator definitions to the various vocabularies (indicator repositories). The four fields described above could then be deprecated.
The challenge then becomes one of defining a common standard for indicator vocabularies to use. We propose creating a separate IATI Indicator Standard at the same level as the IATI Activity Standard and Organization Standard.