A Plea For NGOs to Free Their Data

[Excerpts from the article “NGOs can do more to stop wasting data. Here’s how.” by Diego Menchaca and Tiago Beck, published at Devex.com]
“Every day, immense quantities of field data are collected and stored by NGOs all around the world. Their data is used for needs assessments, measuring and evaluation, and informing future interventions. While the data gathering means are generally quite different (paper questionnaires, spreadsheets, and online surveys), its end destination after a project is often the same: data silos and on-site servers.”
Sadly, 85% of research data is never reused, and international development programs are no exception to this reality.”
“Although NGOs have widely adopted informed consent, rarely do consent forms mention the right to share de-identified data publicly. When NGOs want to venture into open data, it is unfortunately unfeasible — if not impossible — to go back to subjects and request consent to share their data. Effective planning from the start of research is a vital step towards this new culture of collaborative and transparent research.”
“NGOs and for-profit entities can learn how to improve their processes and be better stewards of open data from the Principles of Digital Development, a set of guidelines published in 2016 with the intention of helping organizations succeed in applying digital technologies to development.”
“NGOs can also see what kind of data other organizations are sharing, explore their data sets, and learn from their experiences on Humanitarian Data Exchange, a platform created by the U.N. Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs to find, share, and use humanitarian data.”
“Fixing the data waste issue starts with proper planning. Data sharing is only effective if it was intended from the start of a project: if consent forms included clauses that enable practitioners to share de-identified data; if the data that is produced is of good quality; and if it has a rich metadata that will allow others to understand its nature and reuse that information.”
“At Teamscope, we have put together a data sharing checklist for NGOs and practitioners to help them understand the common pitfalls in open data, and how it impacts every step of a project’s pipeline, from proposal writing to final data dissemination.”
“An open data culture depends on all of us. By being custodians of good data ethics, we can stop valuable information being wasted and ensure that everyone can build upon the efforts of those who came before us.”
To read the article, click here.

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