Responsible Data (RD)

Pulse on the Principles Series

When the Principles for Digital Development were created, the information and communications technology for development (ICT4D) community was primarily focused on the design of digital tools. As the field advanced, attention began to focus more on the data that is collected through those digital tools and devices as well.

Massive amounts of data are produced by global actors. With progressively sophisticated data collection tools and technology, governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are building their digital capacities and digital ecosystems to support a wide range of services, including data tracking, transparency, and accountability purposes. Additionally, the increased use of mobile devices and

the internet by people in low- and middle-income countries around the world has created growing volumes of data, and this has only increased since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not only has the amount of data increased, but its uses have become more sophisticated, and the ways of combining data sets have evolved. Likewise, social impact work has deepened our understanding of how data can lead to harm, especially to vulnerable people and groups.

Responsible data (RD) is about dealing with the unintended consequences of working with data and ensuring that no one is harmed in the process. According to the RD community, “Responsible data is about: 1) prioritizing people’s rights to consent, privacy, security and ownership when using data in social change and advocacy efforts and 2) implementing values and practices of transparency and openness.”

Because data is such a critical aspect of digital development, the Principles for Digital Development must clearly address where data considerations can arise in their practical application. This paper sets out some of the areas where RD does and does not come into play regarding the Principles and makes some proposals for broadening our understanding of RD concerns.

To read more on this topic, download the full resource above.

The Pulse on the Principles series applies the nine Principles to different ethical considerations to help practitioners ensure that their work takes these critical areas into account and to encourage community conversations about the future development and improvement of the Principles.

See other resources in this series on Leave No One Behind (LNOB) and Transparency, Accountability, and Governance (TAG).