What actions in Innovation are needed for the Data Revolution to happen?

Written by Trevor Fletcher, Project Manager of “Informing the Data Revolution”, at PARIS21.

Dear fellow data revolutionaries,

We’re all aware that technological innovation has led to a massive increase in the availability and use of data, and we know that that innovations are an essential ingredient in the recipe required to make the Data Revolution happen, along with building statistical capacity at country level. Tapping into and harnessing these technologies and new data sources are a key to unlocking the power of data and enabling us to meet the goals of any data revolution which are, according to our slogan, to get the right data to the right people at the right time in the right format.

I attended the same meeting in London on “Towards a Strategy for the Data Revolution” that Amanda Glassman talked about in an earlier blog, and I was part of the group asked to discuss what actions in Innovation are needed for the Data Revolution to happen and to come up with some concrete next steps. Our group felt that an obvious first step would be to gather as much information as possible about the whole swathe of innovative activity currently being carried out around the globe, to try and classify these activities into groups and then to communicate them among the various users and producers of data and see which would help meet needs and fill data gaps.

As luck would have it, we already had a starting point for this. The Partnership in Data for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS21) is carrying out a project “Informing a Data Revolution” (funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) to produce a road map document for the Data Revolution, and a component of this project has been to compile an inventory of innovative work related to data. It seemed logical to use this as a basis and then cast our net wider, using the network of data partners who participated in the London meeting to gather more initiatives and to subsequently make this information available to all as an online resource.

A first step in this exercise will be to engage the network of partners to launch a global “call for innovations” via their various websites and mailing lists asking the world at large to send information on their own innovative projects, or point us to other exciting new developments they are aware of – so don’t be surprised if you hear from us soon.

The next step will to (hopefully) add a mass of new entries to our inventory – these can come from the public and private sectors, academia, NGOs, individuals or whoever – and will be broken down according to categories such as crowdsourcing, real-time data, remote sensing, data visualisations, use of alternative (big data) sources, open data, research, and skills development to name but a few, and entered into a database. The database will be made available online and visitors given the opportunity to comment and vote on those they consider would be most useful in helping meet future data needs.

Some examples of the many interesting innovations that have come to our notice thus far include: Using mobile phones for data collection to support OVC in Tanzania; filling gaps with non-official data using geo-spatial tools; Tracking Population Movements using Analysis of Mobile Phones Data in Haiti; disseminating and visualising data via the Open Data Platform in the African Information Highway ; the Open Data Barometer which shows the global spread of Open Government Data policy and practice; the Big Idea Pilot which mobilises young people with knowledge, data and technology to contribute to social accountability at a local, national and global level; the Orange Data for Development programme makeing ICT Big Data extracted from the mobile network available to researchers for the purposes of societal development.

Overall, what is needed is to think outside of the box, and organisations can encourage this by encouraging and creating a culture of innovative thinking – a fine example of this is the CBS Innovation Lab where time and space is provided to develop new ideas.  It would be great if this particular innovation could be more widely adopted…

If you’re interested in getting involved in these activities, please email info@post-2015.org.

1 Comment on "What actions in Innovation are needed for the Data Revolution to happen?"

  1. What is still not totally clear, intentionally or not (ambiguity is sometime creative), is if the overall purpose is about capacity of official statistics (having state recognition) at country level or about data (quantitative I believe) in general for any anyone and any purpose.

    As a example, what is the meaning of “filling gaps with non-official data”? gaps in official data ? gaps in non-official data?

    Sooner or later, explicit attention will have to be given to data revolution to support the production and use of official statistics (see the mandate of the newly created UN Advisory group on data revolution). The CBS innovation lab is interesting as pertaining to a national statistical office. Also as stated in Apia, a key issue is that “institutional innovations should be in place –organizational changes from national statistical office to national statistical systems to better respond to data needs”: http://www.sids2014.org/index.php?menu=1498.

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