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Meet ForeignAssistance.gov

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, December 17 2010

The new ForeignAssistance.gov

There's a new member of the U.S. federal government website family, in the data branch. Meet ForeignAssistance.gov, launched yesterday by the State Department and USAID. The site tracks the $37 billion or so in foreign assistance managed through State and USAID each year.

OMB Watch's Gavin Baker has a first look:

The site offers a user-friendly way to explore spending by State and USAID, with data going back to 2006 in some cases. The data is broken down by country, by office, or by sector (e.g. health, security, education). In addition to charts and graphs, users can view the data in customized tables or download the raw data. Overall, the site is a strong start and has ambitious plans for future improvements.

The major limitations of the site are in the underlying data. Currently, the site only includes data from State and USAID, omitting other agencies involved in U.S. foreign aid. In addition, the data report appropriated amounts, not actual spending, so project-level information is not available. However, the developers plan to address these limitations in future updates, and are looking for feedback on what users would like to see.

The Foreign Assistance Dashboard was inspired, says a note on the site, by the 2005 Paris Declaration on on Aid Effectiveness and President Obama's Open Government Initiative. UN Dispatch's Mark Leon Goldberg is, for one, a fan: "This is definitely a tool that could keep researchers and nerds like me occupied for hours."