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development data

If development data is so important, why is it chronically underfinanced?

Michael M. Lokshin's picture

Few will argue against the idea that data is essential for the design of effective policies. Every international development organization emphasizes the importance of data for development. Nevertheless, raising funds for data-related activities remains a major challenge for development practitioners, particularly for research on techniques for data collection and the development of methodologies to produce quality data.

If we focus on the many challenges of raising funds for microdata collected through surveys, three reasons stand out in particular: the spectrum of difficulties associated with data quality; the problem of quantifying the value of data; and the (un-fun) reality that data is an intermediate input.

Data quality

First things first – survey data quality is hard to define and even harder to measure. Every survey collects new information; it’s often prohibitively expensive to validate this information and so it’s rarely done. The quality of survey data is most often evaluated based on how closely the survey protocol was followed.

The concept of Total Survey Error sets out a universe of factors which condition the likelihood of survey errors (Weisbeg 2005). These conditioning factors include, among many other things: how well the interviewers are trained; whether the questionnaire was tested and piloted and to what degree; whether the interviewers’ individual profiles could affect the respondent answers, etc. Measuring some of these indicators precisely is effectively impossible—most of the indicators are subjective by nature. It may be even harder to separate the individual effects of these components in the total survey error.

Imagine you are approached with a proposal to conduct a cognitive analysis of your questionnaire. - How often were you bothered by the pain in the stomach over the last year? A cognitive psychologist will tell you that this is a badly formulated question: the definition of stomach varies drastically among the respondents; last year could be interpreted as last calendar year, 12 months back from now, or from January 1st until now; one respondent said: it hurt like hell, but it did not bother me, I am a Marine... (from a seminar by Gordon Willis)

Igniting the Data Revolution Post-2015 Now

Grant Cameron's picture

What sparks a revolution? And what helps keep the transformational power of a revolution alive?  When Jim Yong Kim became World Bank Group president less than two years ago, he stated that one of his first priorities was to position the World Bank Group as a “solutions bank.”  Most recently, during his speech last Tuesday at the Council on Foreign Relations, Kim discussed the Bank’s efforts to invest in effective infrastructure, including data systems and social movements to empower the poor.

These three words – solutions, data and the poor – from my perspective, point to this: the data revolution needs to be transformational and we must act now.   Unless we fully embrace this data revolution as a bold, timely opportunity to engage citizens, identify successful case studies, leverage global partnerships and technology, strive to learn from the private sector and truly aim to be innovative, we just may miss out on keeping this revolution alive.  And while it is good news that the UN High Level Panel Report on the post-2015 development agenda confirms that the data revolution is high on the political agenda, we must also gather evidence and vigorously commit to an inclusive plan to meet this goal.

Wolfram Data Summit 2010: The Future Is Now

I spent the day at Wolfram Data Summit 2010, where repository managers and experts from all over the world have convened in Washington to discuss the rewards -- and challenges -- of a new data frontier.

A series of speakers shared fascinating insights on the power of data, including examples of how data is at the forefront of new and exciting developments in the fields of medicine, health care, science, lexicography, media and more.

Open Development Camp this Friday at the World Bank

Sameer Vasta's picture

This coming Friday, July 10th, we'll be hosting the first Open Development Camp (OpenDevCamp) here at the World Bank, along with our friends from AidInfo, Development Gateway, Forum One Communications, and USAID's Global Development Commons.