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Date published: 11/9/2012
NORFOLK--The College of William & Mary has been chosen to lead a federal project that will allow the U.S. to better track the aid it gives to other countries, which could help reduce fraud and better target regions that need assistance, officials said Thursday.
The Williamsburg-based school was awarded $25 million by the U.S. Agency for International Development, making it the single largest financial award in school history.
The new AidData Center for Development Policy will be a joint venture between William & Mary, Brigham Young University in Utah and the University of Texas at Austin, with students from each school traveling abroad to help governments there understand the data they create.
The center will create geospatial data and tools that will allow the U.S. and other governments around the world to see which areas inside of a country are getting what types of aid and which regions it might be more effective in, which is particularly helpful during disaster response.
Ultimately, that will allow a country to see on a map that food assistance or medical care is already being provided in one city by another nation and that they may be able to provide a different type of assistance that is needed more, such as food in a region that may be prone to suffering from droughts.
"Imagine you had this huge spreadsheet and you didn't know where within Tanzania the aid was actually flowing, all you knew was the country of Tanzania was receiving the aid," said Michael Tierney, director of the new AidData Center of Development Policy and co-director of the College's Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations.
"You didn't know how it was spent, didn't know exactly what it was for, didn't know where it was spent. Under those circumstances it's very difficult for U.S. taxpayers to know where their money went specifically, it's difficult for local recipients to know whether they got the money they were promised or whether it got put into the pocket of some corrupt official, and it's very difficult to be able to coordinate between say France and the World Bank and the United States."