Category Archives: data revolution

UNICEF_blog

A data revolution for children

Katell Le Goulven, the Chief of Policy Planning at UNICEF Headquarters explains why data is central to UNICEF’s work for children , as illustrated by the stories in this blog. 
  • The field of early childhood development is being redesigned thanks to recent evidence from neuroscience demonstrating how nature and nurture are inextricably linked during the early development of the human brain.

In Rukoro neighbourhood, Musanze, Rwanda, cell phones powered RapidSMS are being used to register and monitor expecting mothers. If there are any questions, complications or updates, health workers simply send a text to their local clinic and receive a response within minutes. 
©
 UNICEF/RWAA2011-00482/Noorani

 Learn more about UNICEF’s work on data for children and MICS.

Investments in data on children were bolstered a couple of decades ago by the World Summit for Children where world leaders committed to “establish appropriate mechanisms for the regular and timely collection, analysis and publication of data required to monitor relevant social indicators relating to the well-being of children”. And, later on, by the Millennium Development Goals.
Advancements since then have been significant. In 1990, 29 low- and middle-income countries had trend data on child malnutrition. Today 107 do, largely thanks to data collected via increasingly sophisticated household surveys.
More recently, the digital age ushered forth an era when the amount of data is rising exponentially; new data analytics allow us to answer different types of questions than was previously possible; and new technologies helps us do some of what we do, faster and cheaper.
Mobile data helped report 18 million births in Nigeria in 2011-12, and bring down the time to trace and reunify disaster-affected families in Uganda from weeks to hours. SMS surveys have helped reduce malaria medicine stock-outs by 80% in Uganda and young people are engaging in shaping decision making on HIV/AIDS in Zambia.
The recently coined “data revolution” refers to the potential of this ever-expanding and evolving data ecosystem to improve human well-being. These opportunities, however, will not automatically translate into something positive for all. To be sure, the data revolution also raises fundamental rights issues related, for instance, to having an identity and being accounted for, privacy, legitimate use, ownership, participation, and equity and non-discrimination.
These, in turn, question the suitability of our current data policies and governance structures.
People’s well-being should be at the heart of how these policies evolve. And particular attention should be given to children and youth because many risks affect them more specifically. Across the world, children and youth are growing up in a digital world, and data about them will be tracked for much of their lives. While data may help save the lives of many, others may not be aware that their interaction with technology is creating profiles that could impact their future.
A few days ago, I participated in a meeting of experts asked to prepare a report on the data revolution for the UN Secretary-General. During two days, specialists from the statistics, big data, open data, academia and the UN worlds brainstormed on the definition of the “data revolution” and its role to fill in persisting data gaps, to enhance accountability, to track progress towards sustainable development and to empower people.
While participants brought different perspectives to the table, all acknowledged the role of data as a key driver of sustainable development. Consultations held on the second day put the spotlight on the role of data for fostering openness and inclusion and unpacked the opportunities and challenges associated with big data.
These consultations continue online. You can join the conversation and help design a data revolution that works for the benefits of today’s children and of future generations. Submit your ideas here.
Katell Le Goulven is the Chief of Policy Planning at UNICEF Headquarters in New York.
This blog first appeared on the UNICEF Connect blog, here
Old_People_HABlog

What’s new in this year’s Global AgeWatch Index?

This post by the Jane Scobie, Director of Communication and Advocacy at Help Age International provides an overview of the 2014 Global AgeWatch Index. This blog is part of the Wikiprogress series on ‘Engaging Citizens with Well-being Statistics’.
What happens to people when they get to 60?
It’s a little discussed subject. Data broken down by age is limited, but bringing together what is available from the UN, World Bank and Gallup gives us a snapshot of what is happening to older people now and how we can change things for the better.

The Global AgeWatch Index brings together data on income, health, employment, social connections and personal security into one number and ranks countries accordingly. The ranking is accompanied by a global report – this year focusing on income security in old age – and country report cards that highlight innovative responses by government, growing citizen action and some frightening gaps in policy.

 New questions and insights

  • What makes China and Bangladesh rank higher than India? How do people fare in the lowest ranked countries – Afghanistan, West Bank and Gaza and Malawi?
  • Why does Bolivia do so well in comparison? Why is Turkey, a country with high economic growth, so far behind Mexico?
  • What are the emerging issues facing governments at the top of the Index, Norway, Finland, Ireland and Argentina, where populations aged 60 plus make up between 15% and 26% of the total?

These are some of the questions the Index explores.
Two new features of the 2014 Global AgeWatch Index help explain the issues behind the figures.

Included in our country report cards are radar charts that benchmark individual countries against regional averages. And 34 of the report cards include detailed commentaries, written by in-country experts, adding a richness to the data.

Living without a pension
The 2014 Index report points out that 150 million people aged 65 or over in Index countries live without a pension of any kind – For example only 29% of older Indians receive a pension, 4% of older Malawians and barely anyone in Myanmar. However 95% of older Bolivians get a social pension which not only helps them individually but is also credited with reducing household poverty by 13.5%. And 74% of older Chinese now have a pension – that is 130 million people.

The 2014 Index report shows that pension coverage is rising, particularly in Latin America, but adequacy is still a major issue. For example in Kyrgyzstan the pension is worth US$98 a month, US$6 below the subsistence level of US$104. Research shows that heating and other bills eat up to 70% of this income. The situation is compounded by low economic activity amongst older people in Central Asia compared to other regions.

The Index measures older people’s capabilities through economic activity and educational status. Some 22% of people aged 80-plus are looking for a job in Indonesia, and 92% of people aged 55-64 in Tanzania work. Many people in Colombia aged 60 and over want or need to go on working but face age discrimination. Job adverts routinely specify young applicants, for example.

Global postcode lottery

It is not only which you country you live in that determines your wellbeing in older age. Reports from individual countries show that provincial responsibility for services means that these are often very different in rural and urban areas, depending on local government providers.

For example, supplementary health services in Canada, access to day care centres in Colombia and ambulances services in Kyrgyzstan, vary greatly between different parts of the country.

Rising issues

Caregiver burnout and the demand for individual care and community services to enable people to stay in their own homes in their later years are issues of concern for civil society, governments and professionals the world over.

The transition into old age is inevitable, but it is not adequately being addressed. We hope the Global AgeWatch Index will stimulate demand for better data and debate.

We invite you to explore the report and website to find out more.

This blog first appeared on the Global AgeWatch Index site, here. 
flagit

Increasing Youth Involvement in the Data Revolution

There is a lively online discussion happening right now on Wikiprogress aboutMaking data more accessible for society at large”. This blog, by Wikichild Coordinator Melinda Deleuze, will discuss how children and youth could become more involved in the open data world as data users, storytellers and producers. 
A result of an open data society is that data will inevitably become more freely available for young people to download, use, and share. This means that we need to train children and youth to become more data savvy, so they can interpret the increasing amounts of raw data and visualisations. There are already several free courses and tutorials available online about how to analyse data (e.g. Visualisingdata.com; Lynda.com; Coursera.org), which could prove useful for older youth and teachers. There are also online learning tools geared towards a younger audience, such as these data handling games for children as young at 5 years old. Another great initiative mentioned on the online discussion by Big Idea is their Joint Consultation Workshop in Tanzania back in March. The workshop trained young people from Ghana, Nepal and Tanzania to analyse data and present it to a younger audience, which brings me to my next point…
 

If data is going to be more easily understandable for youth, then it should be other young people telling the stories. The European Youth Press (EYP) has begun training young journalists to use more data in their work. In 2013, EYP launched the “FlagIt!” project which trained 48 young journalists from 4 continents on how to use digital visualisation tools in open source. The project will soon publish an online handbook available to anyone who would like to use these tools. This September, EYP will be hosting a conference for young European journalists (18 to 26 years old) on data-driven journalism, which will also include participation in the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium on media in the era of big data. Finally, EYP provides a free online course “Doing Journalism with Data,” open to anyone with an internet connection. 


Finally, more interactive technology tools should be geared towards youth as data producers, so that their voices can be heard. The Global Partnership on Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda (#GPY2015) is working on an interactive crowdsourcing initiative to identify youth priorities, building on the results of young voters in the MyWorld2015 survey: Education; Employment and Entrepreneurship; Health; Good Governance; Peace and Stability. Citizen Science for Youth’s webinar last October is another example of an initiative aimed at engaging youth in crowdsourcing data. 


Do you know of other initiatives that include child and youth in the data revolution? Feel free to leave a comment in the online discussion!
Data-Pop_Alliance

Data-Pop Alliance: a global alliance and call for a people-centered Big Data revolution

This May 2014 launch blog by Data-Pop Alliance’s leadership: Emmanuel Letouzé, Claire Melamed, Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland, Phuong Pham, Emma Samman and Patrick Vinck explains why they started this alliance. This post is part of the Wikiprogress discussion on “Making data more accessible to society at large“.

As our lives have become increasingly digital, the amount and variety of data that the world’s population generates every day is growing exponentially, as are our capacities to extract ‘insights’ from them. The potential of ‘Big Data’ for human development and humanitarian action has stirred a great deal of both excitement and skepticism since the concept became mainstream at the dawn of the decade. But simply opposing the ‘promise and perils’ of Big Data is a dead end; recognizing their co-existence a mere starting point.

Looking a generation ahead, observing the persistent prevalence of absolute poverty, the rise of global inequality, and the many walls and ceilings impeding well-being, we wondered: what will it take for Big Data to have by then served the cause of human progress to the best of its ability and ours, as part of the larger “data revolution”? Our answer—our contribution—is the creation of the Data-Pop Alliance.


There is no shortage of valuable publications and conferences, initiatives and working groups, proofs of concepts and lab projects, in the fast expanding universe of ‘Big Data for social good’. But we are frustrated by its high level of institutional fragmentation and corresponding lack of a coherent intellectual direction—especially in relation to the context and concerns of poor developing countries. Individual projects and research do not sufficiently build upon or learn from each other, and movement beyond the project and pilot stage towards the use of Big Data at scale will thus be difficult and probably inefficient. Too many discussions are rooted in ideologies and assumptions rather than in solid empirical findings and a clear theory of social change.

“Big Data must increase and not reduce the power of citizens”

What we saw and see as missing is ‘something’—a player or a group of players—serving as a connecting hub, sounding board, and driving force, with the credibility and agility, the intent and capacity, to promote the kind of ‘Big Data revolution’ we feel is needed. What brought us and our organizations together is the conviction that Big Data must increase and not reduce the power of citizens: that the kinds of low granularity, high frequency, digital personal data (these digital “breadcrumbs”) passively emitted by humans ought to be leveraged to impact policies and politics for the benefit of people.  We want to see Big Data amplify the voice and knowledge of the emitters of data, not just improve the insights and means of surveillance of corporations and governments. This will require a better informed, more empowered, global citizenry, and a deeper understanding of the appropriate balance between individual, social, governmental, and commercial interests—with the overarching ethical dimensions and implications.
This is why we created the Data-Pop Alliance: to spur a ‘humanistic’, people-centered, Big Data revolution, cautiously, humbly but resolutely, by providing an enabling environment for learning, information sharing, experimentation, evaluation and capacity building; to catalyze and coordinate developments and innovations in the use of Big Data to help serve the cause of human progress.
Data-Pop Alliance will be a place for the exchange of ideas and information and a broker and implementer of projects.  We believe that structural impact will only come about through a range of connected activities, rather than through a single big initiative or a myriad of disjointed projects. We don’t know yet how Big Data can be best used for human development and social progress. Answers will come from a combination of opportunistic and strategic decisions and actions both on the supply and demand sides of the field. But these should be taken with an eye on the main prize: a future where Big Data improves lives and reduces inequalities, rather than one characterized by a new and widening digital divide.
It is only by linking and leveraging skills, perspectives, and resources in an inter-disciplinary, systematic, and collegial manner that we will collectively be able to make the most of the tremendous potential offered by Big Data to create more agile and more accountable sociopolitical ecosystems, while avoiding its main traps and pitfalls. In this, we are fortunate enough to be joined by an incredible number of institutional and individual partners in a wide range of fields and sectors, from computer science to humanitarian assistance, official statistics to statistical machine-learning, working in small non-governmental organizations and large international institutions, official bodies and academic establishments.
Of course, differences of views are and will be represented in Data-Pop Alliance—along, and at times at odds with, ‘expected’ political lines and economic interests. An obviously contentious question is: in a post-Snowden era, how much, how, by and for whom, when and for what purpose, should cell-phone data be collected, shared and analyzed? Addressing that question—and many others—won’t be easy. But our conviction, based on the lessons of past revolutions and our own experiences, is that the confrontation of competing perspectives coupled with the constant recall of our common objectives is the best and indeed only way to create constructive change.
And so this ‘launch blog post’ is also a call to action and connection to everyone willing to contribute to our mission statement: promoting a people-centered Big Data revolution for development and social progress.
*******************************************************************************
Find out more about the Wikiprogress discussion on:

What’s missing from the data revolution? People.

Written by Neva Frecheville, Co-chair, Beyond 2015, Lead Analyst Post-MDGs, CAFOD. This post is in the lead up to the Wikiprogress discussion on “Making data more accessible to society at large“.

I find the post-2015 data debate both fascinating and disappointing, failing as it does in one key area.

It’s ignoring power.

The UN High Level Panel report on the post-2015 development agenda confirmed that the data revolution is high on the political agenda by including it as one of their five transformational shifts. Since then, the conversation has snowballed, with some heavy weights adding their support.
But I’d argue that at present, the data revolution is too technocratic to change the world. While they’re right that the lack of adequate data is a serious obstacle to good evidence based policy (and practice), the right statistics alone will not change the world. Without looking at the power dynamics behind this ‘revolution’, very little is transformational. Serious questions need to be asked about whose data is captured, by whom, and who has the ability to access, define and interpret it. Whereas the wider open data debate has cottoned on to the importance of citizen empowerment and participation and frames the debate as participation, accountability and transparency, it’s too little referenced in the post-2015 arena.
Who are the people who are meant to benefit the most from the post-2015 development agenda? We all have a responsibility to ensure that those most disenfranchised from decision-making are at the centre of the post-2015 debate. This means those living in the greatest poverty and experiencing the greatest exclusion – especially if we want to achieve the other rallying cry to ‘leave no one behind.’
One of the biggest criticisms of the MDGs is that they were created in the dark corridors and behind the closed doors of global politics at the end of the millennium. Ostensibly, the world is different now – the global conversation,outreach that has seen 1.3 million people share their priorities, and negotiations broadcast online are testament to an increasingly connected world . But this is a conversation that has to include those at the margins in a way that understands the unequal labyrinths of power in which they operate.
Unless we have a better understanding of the data revolution in the context of power dynamics it will not succeed in delivering real, positive change on the ground. During participatory research in 29 countries, people living in poverty articulated their aspirations as freedom from discrimination and oppression, the ability to participate in the decision which affect their lives, social inclusion and a sense of hope. In a world of rising inequalities, people describe poverty and marginalisation as the denial of the rights that confer equality and dignity. But tick box exercises, or even formal legislative recognition of those rights, do not automatically translate into concrete outcomes. For the poorest, the reality experienced through the behaviour of government officials and institutional representatives is one of discrimination and intolerance.
The testimony of one participant from Chennai in India bears witness to the lack of ownership that marginalised people experience when articulating their reality: “Our rights of privacy, freedom are not respected… In fact, the society knows that we are not heard. Often the view is that what we say should not be taken at face value… Even our truths get interrogated.” Without ensuring that people have control of what data is collected, how it is represented and used, and the decisions it is used to inform, this dynamic is not going to change.
So what are the solutions? Participate findings have shown that a participatory approach to governance, that engages with local knowledge, strengthens people’s voices, and enables people to have influence and hold decision-makers to account, has the potential to be transformational. But the meaningful participation of people living in poverty in the creation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies won’t take place if the data which determines policies and priorities is extracted and does nothing to strengthen their hand.
The data revolution must be built from the bottom up, linking local to global. This means investment in community organisation and capacity development, and enabling spaces for the collective action of marginalised communities to emerge. This means empowering citizens – especially the poorest and most marginalised – to participate in the data revolution by developing the skills and capacity of people living in poverty to define the rights that matter most to them, capture and make use of this data, be included in creating, monitoring and implementing policies, and hold institutions to account based on this data.
Neva Frecheville, CAFOD
This blog first appeared on post2015.org, here

1

Talking ’bout a (data) revolution? Then let’s make it truly revolutionary

Written by Ben Taylor, Open Development Consultant with Twaweza, working on citizens’ agency and open government in East Africa. He blogs at mtega.com and tweets as @mtega. This post is written in a personal capacity and does not necessarily represent the views of Twaweza. This post is in the lead up to the Wikiprogress discussion on “Making data more accessible to society at large“.

“We call for a data revolution,” said the report of the high-level panel on the post-2015 development agenda, “with a new international initiative to improve the quality of statistics and information available to citizens. We should actively take advantage of new technology, crowd sourcing, and improved connectivity to empower people with information on the progress towards the targets.”
As someone who works in the field of data and development, I find this idea exciting – but have a couple of problems with how it is being interpreted.
First, a revolution, by definition, should represent a radical shift in power, but amid the competing views on what the revolution should look like, this point is in danger of being forgotten.
Statisticians, data scientists and development policy wonks alike have jumped on the idea of a data revolution with delight. Stats boffins see it as an opportunity to get the funding needed to make sure national statistics offices can do their jobs properly. Policy wonks see it as a chance to get more reliable data with which to compare progress in Malawi and Malaysia, say. And the tech and data gurus are looking for recognition for a wider range of data sources, beyond household surveys.
But, in my view, all these envisioned benefits are about giving powerful people in Washington, London and Geneva (etc.) increased access to more and better data on development progress.
This was what I heard at a meeting I attended at the end of January, on data and accountability for the post-2015 development framework. I found it to be disappointingly unambitious.
Don’t get me wrong, more and better data, better monitoring of global commitments and better-informed policy debates are all valid goals. But can’t we be more radical, more ambitious, more revolutionary?
Look again at the first sentence of this post – the clue is in the final word. Let’s improve the quality and availability of data to citizens. It’s about changing the relationship between governments and their citizens (or rather between citizens and their governments). That has the potential to be far more transformative, even emancipatory.
The real potential of the data revolution idea comes when it’s combined with another interesting proposal in the same report:
“Responsive and legitimate institutions should encourage the rule of law, property rights, freedom of speech and the media, open political choice, access to justice, and accountable government and public institutions. We need a transparency revolution, so citizens can see exactly where and how taxes, aid and revenues from extractive industries are spent. These are ends as well as means.”
Did you spot that word again: revolution? Blend these two revolutions together – data and transparency – with a generous dash of political freedoms, and we’re really starting to get somewhere.
It’s when data goes beyond reporting on poor people’s lives and starts to provide those people with the data and information to shape change for themselves that it starts to get interesting. And that means something quite different to the way the ‘data revolution’ was being discussed in New York.
There’s another mistake we could easily make, particularly those of us who see the data revolution as an opportunity to put citizens in the driving seat: the potential of data to empower citizens is clear, but we need to be realistic about how this can be achieved. Publish-and-they-will-come is not enough. We need to be much better at using data, at making it useful and interesting to citizens.
This means starting with understanding who those people are and what their interests are. It means asking who they currently turn to for information and for support when trying to get things done. It means asking whether data (in its modern sense) is really the tool you need – or if radio, noticeboards or community organising might be more appropriate. If data are involved, it means presenting it in ways that are meaningful and interesting. That means disaggregation to a very local level – not national or even district level, but the level of the individual school or village – and comparisons and narratives that bring the data to life. And it means thinking seriously about how you expect data to deliver change.
‘Infomediaries’ have a key role to play: acting as a bridge between data and people, and not only finding stories from screens full of numbers but being able to tell those stories in ways that engage and inspire citizens to act. And in many cases, citizens may turn to those same ‘infomediaries’ to support them – to amplify their voices, to play the games that deliver change in practice. I’m talking most obviously about the media, but also about local politicians, communities and religious leaders.
I realise I am asking for both ambition and realism. But that’s not necessarily a contradiction. If we can be revolutionary in our aims and practical in how we achieve them, then we will have a data revolution worthy of the name.

Ben Taylor
mtega.com
@mtega

This blog first appeared on post2015.org, here

To find out more about the Wikiprogress discussion on Making data more accessible to society at large: the role open data, communication and technology”.