A new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) looks into the issue of a web-based geospatial database that is intended to provide USAID with an accurate picture of infrastructure development in Afghanistan. What they found is that the accuracy of the data leaves a lot to be desired.
SIGAR looked into the accuracy of the Afghanistan Infrastructure and Security Cartography System (AISCS). AISCS was developed by International Relief and Development, Inc. (IRD), a USAID contractor, and was designed to include geospatial information on development activities, including construction of roads, schools, clinics, hospitals, and public buildings such as courthouses and district centers.
IRD aimed to obtain infrastructure project site information from the USAID mission in Afghanistan, as well as the Department of Defense, and verify the accuracy of that information. According to IRD, it has “stringent ongoing multi-tiered quality control protocols in place to insure accuracy and precision collected data [sic]."
But when SIGAR tested the data it found that these "stringent ongoing multi-tiered quality control protocols"were not worth tuppence. This is what they found:
"We observed that, of the 33,000 records in AISCS, only 16 percent were shown as having confirmed locations. We selected 10 projects from AISCS and asked CITF to corroborate the projects’ stated locations using a variety of unclassified and classified sources. These 10 projects were spread geographically throughout Afghanistan and represented various sectors, including health, education, government, transportation, and hydroelectric power.
"CITF found that location coordinates for 4 of the 10 projects were highly accurate, but were significantly inaccurate for 3 of the 10. For the remaining 3 projects, CITF determined that insufficient corroborating information was available to assess the spatial accuracy of the coordinates. In other words, CITF was unable to locate the project."
Concerned with the inaccuracy of the initial results, SIGAR decided to look in detail at the geospatial locations of schools built with USAID money, eventually checking the data for 227 schools.
What did they find?:
"Specifically, of the 227 schools, NGA found that 185 (81%) of them were at the given coordinates. However, NGA could not confirm the coordinates for the remaining 42 records (19%). Specifically, for 12 of the records (5%), NGA determined that there was a school within 400 meters of the given coordinates; for 20 (9%), there was no school within 400 meters; and for 8 (4%), NGA was unable to make a determination. NGA considered two of the schools (1%) to be duplicates.
"SIGAR considers the coordinates for these 42 records (19%) to be questionable. Based on our sample, we project with 95% confidence that between 74 and 129 of the total 549 completed, USAID-funded schools in Afghanistan have location coordinates that cannot be verified using geospatial means or are incorrect."
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