Learning from UNESCO's Transparency Portal

The UNESCO transparency portal provides open data with the goal to make the activities of the organization more transparent to everyone. From the first page we can see that it claims to be currently spending most of its funds in Brazil. From the "financial flows" page, on the other side, we see that most of the funds are directed towards improving education in many countries. Based on this, we could type "education, Brazil" and see whether we could find information about projects in progress which take disproportional amount of funds.

The result set is limited to 400 items, so this query restricts it only to 34. But if we weren't that specific we might face the case of having 402 results and being unable to download the data. Once we open the result, we see a very large number of dimensions with either missing or constant values. This makes it particularly hard to extract anything of value from this data. And although we can see the names of the columns fairly easily, they say nothing about how important this piece of information might be.

So we can resort to an idea used in scikit-learn: feature elimination. But we'll do by hand to be sure that we don't mistakenly delete an important feature. This way we can also learn about the relationships among the features. For instance, we notice that there are separate columns about expenditure and child expenditure, both pointing to separate columns about commitment and actual expenditure (both in USD).

After we remove many features and sort by expenditure, we can see a short narrative of each project. Here are the top 20 projects with highest expenditure:

Narrative Country name Expenditure (USD)
Nubia Museum In Aswan And The National Museum Of Egyptian Civilization In Cairo Egypt 5543437
Iraq Public Sector Modernisation (I-Psm) Programme Phase Ii Iraq 2635821
Teacher And School Leadership Training For Formal Education For Out-Of-School Children In Somalia Somalia 1686671
Communication For Sustained Livelihood And Food Security, Myanmar Myanmar 1009748
Enhanced Knowledge And Education For Resilient Pastoral Livelihoods In South Sudan South Sudan 733206
Improve Gender Equality And Learning Success In Selected Secondary And Higher Learning Institutions In Ethiopia Ethiopia 626456
Reaching Out Of School Children And Youth In South Sudan: Support To Out Of School Children (Oosc) Interventions And Updating Oosc Study Of The 2013 Under The South Sudan Gpep. 593669
Strengthening The Socio-Cultural Aspects Of Government'S Development Programs Viet nam 530394
Empowering Rural Women In Mafraq Governorate Through The Management And Preservation Of The Umm El-Jimal'S Archeological Site In Jordan As Income-Generating Activities Jordan 422401
Projet D'Urgence Pour L'Education De Base Au Tchad - Alphabétisation Et Education Non Formelle Chad 340026
Supporting Viet Nam To Build An Inclusive, Creative And Sustainable Learning Society Viet nam 326594
Increasing Disaster Resilience In Haiti - Integration Of Drr In The Formal Education System Haiti 306724
Appui Au Renforcement De La Confiance, La Coexistence Et À La Stabilisation Sécuritaires Pour Des Élections Apaisées En Côte D'Ivoire Côte d'ivoire 271990
Strengthening The Capacities Of Suriname And Dutch Caribbean Islands For Implementing The Convention For The Safeguarding Of The Intangible Cultural Heritage 243681
Improving The Welfare And Quality Of Life In The Kyzylorda Region Through Innovative Approaches To Delivering Economic, Social And Environmental Services To The Local Population, Including Those Most Vulnerable Kazakhstan 181989
Strengthening Of Capacities Of Teachers Through The Implementation Of The Framework Of Good Performance Of Teacher Peru 167244
Projet D'Appui À La Restauration Du Système D'Information Pour La Gestion De L'Education (Sige) Et Au Renforcement Des Capacités Statistiques Du Ministère De L'Éducation Nationale De La République Centrafricaine The Central African Republic 159349
Capacity Building For Protection, Conservation And Promotion Of Tangible Heritage In Lebanon And Syria Lebanon 158611
Strengthening Local Capacities For Peace And Development Through A Human Security Approach In The Northern Border One Of Ecuador Ecuador 139649
Institutions Démocratiques Intègres, Représentatives Et Crédibles Madagascar 138686

As you can see, most funds are said to be directed at really poor countries who really need them and are not (as some people believe) sinking into questionable activities. From this standpoint, the work of this organization is remarkable, potentially helping these people, so it deserves to continue to exist.

Yet, there is also a small problem. Our query was related to education in Brazil. As you can see, this country doesn't appear in the results even once, despite the claim that it consumes most of the funds. This seems strange, but it might be due to a data retrieval problem. What happens specifically in Brazil still remains a question mark. Let's polish our lens again, searching specifically for Brazil in the data:

Narrative Expenditure (USD)
Strengthen Unesco'S Open Solutions For Knowledge Societies Programme In Brazil 30534
Advocacy For The Global Citizenship Education (Gce) Concept And Initiative On Upper Secondary Education And Technical Vocational Education And Training (Tvet) In Brazil 13944
Ccesd For Youth 4579
Capacity-Building Activities, In Particular Supporting The Preparation Of Second Quadrennial Report. 24159
Young Women And Men Civically Engaged To Support National Development, Community Building And Social Innovation 24764
Favela Populations Involved In The Generation And Use Of Data As A Means Of Participating In And Influencing Policy Processes 18847

Compared to the previous amounts, these tend to be relatively low. But the projects on this page are said to be in implementation phase (as of June 2017), where the concrete numbers about Brazil shown at the front page of the portal might be about historic total investments.