Study: Data for development

Data for development: What’s next?

Concepts, trends and recommendations for German development cooperation

Data has been used extensively in international development for many years. It has helped development organizations define appropriate interventions, assess the progress of projects and evaluate the effectiveness of the development agenda. Enabled by the rapid spread of technology and increasingly affordable access to the internet and mobile networks, the availability of digital data has grown massively. Several initiatives launched in recent years have explored ways to leverage these new types of digital data coming from cell phones, social media and sensors for more targeted, effective and efficient development interventions.

In this blog post, we summarise the findings of a study that looked at the state of digital data for development and emerging trends, to help German development cooperation consider how they might best prioritize the data approaches and investments in their broader development agenda. We focus on four data categories: big data, open data, citizen-generated data and real-time data. The selection of these categories considered two key dimensions: 1) growing use in development-related discourses, and 2) ability to capture key characteristics of interest, including size, access, source, and timeliness of data. We believe these categories provide a good starting point to explore how digital data production and use might lead to better development outcomes.

The blog post is structured as follows. The state of affairs chapter explores four digital data for development concepts. For each of the concepts, we discuss key actors and initiatives as well as progress made in interventions and programmes over recent years. The trends chapter presents six trends that we believe will shape the data for development space over the next five years. Through these trends – identified through literature review, interviews with experts and workshop discussions with staff from German development organisations – we seek to capture not only technical advancements, but also social, political and legal aspects that will impact future data for development work.

The recommendations chapter seeks to respond to the identified trends. While we have made an effort to tailor the recommendations to the German government’s specific development cooperation agenda, they should be understood as suggestions for a general direction of travel rather than as immediate, concrete and actionable prescriptions. This is largely due to the variety of actors involved in German development cooperation, which include funders, implementing organisations working in financial and technical cooperation, media development and faith-based institutions as well as political foundations. Spelling out customised, context-specific advice would require in-depth organisational assessments, review of priorities and analyses of project portfolios, all of which was beyond the scope of the study. Nonetheless, we are confident that the exploration of the trends and the presentation of key recommendations, albeit broad, will help German development actors identify a niche in the data for development field.

About the Authors

Andreas Pawelke

Andreas Pawelke is the Lab Director of the Web Foundation’s Open Data Lab Jakarta. Before joining the Web Foundation, he worked as an associate expert at the administrative reforms support programme of GIZ Indonesia and also spent time seconded to the World Bank and UN Global Pulse, exploring innovative solutions at the intersection of governance, technology, and open as well as big data. As a member of the project team at the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, he was involved in shaping Germany’s Open Data initiative. Andreas studied at the Technical University of Darmstadt, the Berlin-based Hertie School of Governance and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Master of Public Policy.

Michael P. Cañares

Michael P. Cañares is the Senior Research Manager for Digital Citizenship at the Web Foundation. He has more than ten years of research and development work experience at a progressive pace — from community-based project management to regional development, with most of his work rooted mainly in Southeast Asia. He previously led research at the Web Foundation’s Open Data Lab in Jakarta, and prior to that, taught for over ten years, served as results measurement specialist for infrastructure governance and local economic development, and managed various open data research projects in the Philippines. He is a graduate of law and accountancy, completed a masters course in business education and also holds an M.Sc. degree in Development Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science. His current research focus is on the politics of data, the use of data in empowering people and communities, and the processes of localising global commitments.

Kevin Hernandez

Kevin Hernandez is a Research Officer at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS). After completing an MA in Globalisation, Business and Development at IDS, he now works with the digital and technology cluster on various projects including, the potential impacts of frontier technologies for Development, the use of Technology for Transparency and Accountability (T4TA), the use of Real Time Data for decision making in the development sector, the use of foresight methodology in development, helping donors mainstream adaptive management practices, and helping several donor agencies think through their use of digital technologies and their impacts. Some of the emerging technologies he has focused on include: blockchain, 3D-Printing, big data, drones, airships, internet of things, solar batteries, and more.

Pedro Prieto Martín

Pedro Prieto Martín is a Senior Research Officer at the Digital and Technology research group from the Institute of Development Studies (UK). Pedro holds degrees in Computer Science, Business Administration and Sociology, and a PhD in Computer Science. He worked for six years for Hewlett-Packard in Germany, as Technical Lead of a B2B platforms development team, before moving to Latin America, where he spent five years researching Participatory Budgeting and ICT for social change in Brazil, and Municipal Participation and Transparency in Guatemala. In Spain he later supported and researched, at the local level, the social mobilisation processes that resulted from the “indignados” movement. His activist-researcher work has focused on the areas of Open Government, Human Centred Design and in digital practices, tools and methods for citizen engagement and social change. His research at IDS has focused on the Adaptive Management and the use of Frontier Technologies for Development.