On December 16, 2014, Abt Associates hosted an interactive session on the fifth Principle for Digital Development, Be Data Driven. Phyllis Guiliano and Eric Couper from Abt Associates facilitated the event, which focused very concretely on challenges and solutions in being data driven. A panel of guest speakers covered three specific projects and how they managed to successfully embrace data: Brooke Cutler, Deputy Director, MAMA (Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action), Michael Rodriguez, Director for International eHealth Initiatives, Abt Associates, and David McAfee, President/CEO, Human Network International. This was followed by and engaging group discussion on real world solutions and commitments from participants on how they will further embrace data.
Highlights of the discussion are captured below. Does this content resonate with you? Are there aspects of the discussion that you would modify? Join the discussion using the comments section on this page.
- Treat data as a critical, fundamental building block to international development. It should inform how interventions are designed, implemented, and evaluated.
- Understand what constraints, including limited access to physical, financial, technical, or human resources, may limit access to timely and accurate data.
- Consider the implications of various constraints, from a “data gap,” in which data is simply unavailable, to a “usability gap,” in which limitations restrict the utility of available data due to a lack of resource or capacity.
- Incorporate agile methodologies that enable analysis of data collected a month, a day, or even an hour ago, in addition to traditional methodologies reliant on evidence-based studies that are peer reviewed and published.
- Draw from a variety of data sources, including traditional collection modalities (e.g., via surveys or enumerators), “big data” (e.g., by-products of digital user actions and transactions), and “open data” (e.g., license-free public data, such as that provided by a government).
- Use data to improve service delivery by creating a feedback loop between data, analysis, decision-making, and action.
- Achieve maximum impact by planning ahead for the strategies and resources (and in some cases dedicated staff) that enable data collected and interpreted to be used.
- Use performance metrics data to improve system design and user experience.
- Partner with local actors to ensure that data collection, interpretation, analysis, and data driven action matches with community needs.
- Support the ability of local partners to make changes based on insights generated by data-driven development.
- Ensure that adequate privacy and security measures are in place to protect the individuals about whom data is being collected and used.
- Ask where there are vulnerabilities of information collection, sharing and communication within the intended users and/or target audience of the project, and with the technology being used to gather, analyze, and house the data.
- Carefully consider taxonomy, as how data is categorized will influence how it is interpreted and used.
- Use standards to wherever possible to facilitate data analysis and sharing.
- Leverage and contribute to existing data repositories whenever appropriate to grow the data commons.
You can also download a PDF of the Community Discussion document here.