IATI blog: Automated feedback emails based on the Validator: first results
Dear IATI Community,
Recently, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs developed a new tool based on the IATI Validator. When one of our implementing partners publishes new data, we process that in our database as usual. If the partner is signed up to this service, the system then sends an email the following morning, to an email address of their choosing. The email has an attachment which contains all errors that the Validator has found, plus one: it also checks if any provider activity identifier added to an incoming transaction is an existing activity ID in the IATI registry. As many in the IATI community know, we find it necessary to check for this, because traceability is key to using IATI data.
We recently tested this with four of our partners, most of whom were very happy with the service. Some also had reasons to use this tool which we didn’t anticipate. Someone said: “I never go to the Validator anymore, because if there is a mistake, I will find out from the email.” Another tester: “The email helps to find mistakes, but it also confirms that the ministry has received our data, so I find it reassuring.” All found it convenient that the Validator is used, but without them having to remember to go to the site and run it. One tester said that the messages are a bit technical, and she couldn’t easily see which activity the error refers to. Because we prefer to use the Validator content here, we can’t really do much about this, so for people like her, the solution is to click through to the Validator site for more information. We hope this group will still be happy with the automated feedback. The same tester also hoped there would be more checks in future so her data could be further improved.
Now that the initial test yielded positive results, we have expanded the audience of the tool to the subscribers to the Dutch IATI Newsletter (for which you can subscribe here, by the way) and if all goes well, we will also recommend the tool in our next webinar of the IATI Guided Implementation series, which will be held on September 5th (link here).
From that ‘phase 2’ we hope to learn a few more things. Firstly, how will absolute beginners use and understand the emails? Secondly, what will be the effect of the emails on the number of requests for support? People may reach out about the issues in their data they didn’t know about before, and it is important to have the capacity of our helpdesk to deal with those questions. On the other hand, we hope the tool also raises the quality of the data without our active involvement, which will be helpful in the long run.
Lastly, we want to find out if one particular feature is useful: we have built in the possibility to not receive an email each time you publish, but less often. We built this for those who publish very frequently and don’t want their inboxes to fill up. However, the testers wanted to receive feedback each time they publish, even the tester who publishes daily. We are very interested to see how many partners find this option useful in the bigger group of users.
We thank Oxfam Novib, Care Nederland, Plan International Netherlands and Womankind Worldwide for their early testing. If you are (or used to be) an implementing partner of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, please feel free to sign up for phase 2, as well. Either way, we will keep you updated on any new insights.