WASHINGTON, DC – Since the turn of the century, the international development community has rallied behind the Millennium Development Goals, which set specific targets in eight key areas, including poverty, child mortality, and disease, to be achieved by 2015. In formulating the post-2015 development agenda, measuring the MDGs’ successes – and identifying where progress has lagged – is critically important. And that demands more and better data.
To be sure, international institutions and many developing countries have invested significantly in improving data collection to track better their performance against MDG targets. In 2003, only four countries had two data points for 16 or more of the 22 principal MDG indicators; by last year, that figure had soared to 118 countries.
But development data remain a scarce resource in the developing world. Given their value in measuring – and propelling – social and economic progress, this shortage must be addressed urgently. A catalyst is needed to expand the production and use of development data. With this in mind, the high-level panel on the post-2015 development agenda is right to call for a global “data revolution.”
Changes to the supply and demand of data are restructuring privileged hierarchies of knowledge, with amateur hackers and machine-readable technology becoming a central part of its analysis. Traditional experts may be hoping for a gradual evolution, but a parallel revolution led by practitioners in the private sector may already be underway. Prasanna Lal Das argues that partnerships will need to incorporate these new practitioners because for them, the data revolution is already a fact of life.
This isn’t the first age of revolution, but this one feels like it might not last 100 years. Our world is transmogrifying in front of our eyes – sometimes more forcefully than others – and the traditionally dry world of data, dominated by dons and ‘experts’, hasn’t been immune to changes either. It might even be the spark for at least some revolutionary fervour, especially since the report of the high level panel of eminent persons on the post-2015 development agenda called for a ‘data revolution’ to ‘strengthen data and statistics for accountability and decision-making purposes’. The official data revolution has however unfolded slowly, sometimes making one wonder if it’s going to be a revolution of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats, and for the bureaucrats. Or if it will be a revolution that truly changes how we measure our world, what we measure in it, and who does the measurements.
A new World Bank report, Gender at Work, emphasizes the need for multidimensional assessments of gender equality in the world of work. A fuller picture of the problem lends to more comprehensive policy solutions.
It is tempting to use a single indicator as the gauge of a country’s standing on gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. None is more alluring than labor force participation. It is consistently available and provided yearly for the vast majority of countries—currently 183 out of 214 on the Gender Data Portal. This is an exception in the universe of economic gender indicators, which are often patchy, irregular, and unreliable. However, this leaves an incomplete and even misguided impression of how countries fare.
How do you take the same data that everybody has access to and convert it into a billion dollar business? When do you look at all the data in the world and say you want more (and that you are going to collect it like no one has done before)? How do you stop worrying about open data, and begin solving development challenges instead? Who is doing what with open data and how and why?
The latest data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union show that Rwanda tops the list as the country with the highest proportion of women in parliament, with nearly 64 percent of seats held by women in 2013. Globally, women account for an average of about 20 percent of parliamentary seats, up from 15 percent a decade ago.
The top ten countries are a mix of high and middle income economies, some with legally mandated gender quotas and some without. Rwanda, a low income country, is followed by Andorra at a flat 50 percent and Cuba at 49 percent. Sweden, with 44 percent of parliamentary seats held by women, is the country that achieved the highest rate without any gender quota.
The power of open data to bring together people from different streams of life for civic purposes was on full display around the world on February 22-23, 2014. Washington, D.C. was home to one of the 194 global International Open Data Day events that dotted cities around the world. Data was scraped. Visualizations were made. Code was written. Interfaces were designed. Prototypes were built. Initiatives were born (Here’s looking at you, Code for Nepal!). New friends were made. And a tooth was chipped.
photo credit: @anjelikadeo
Despite the unseasonably warm weather in Washington, D.C., more than 350 civic hackers, development specialists, coders, designers, and enthusiasts participated in two days of Open Data Day hacking and tutorials at the World Bank. Based on an informal poll (raise your hand, please?!) of all attendees at the beginning of the event, nearly two-thirds of the audience had never attended an Open Data Day event before. This was an unexpected but welcome surprise and bodes well for the continued growth of the open data community in Washington, DC.
This post originally appeared on the FeedBack Labs blog.
Feedback is always present. Even silence is not the absence of feedback, but a quiet subtext open for interpretation. In both online and offline communities, the most difficult part is not generating feedback or even collecting it. People typically care about what is happening around them and are often willing to share their sentiments and reflections- sometimes even unable to hold back expression. The advent of writing perhaps marks an innate human desire to share information and to be heard without speaking; “true” silence may actually be quite rare, more a condition of looking and listening in the wrong places or employing a less holistic approach. The graffiti that marks the architecture of repressive regimes past and present is in itself a type of feedback, representing citizen engagement with institutions that refused to officially afford that right or offer practical channels to its citizens. As such, the key challenges that exist with feedback loops are whether or not we are listening, engaging, and actively responding by catalyzing appropriate change.
Data tells stories and the people at the World Bank Group who fight fraud and corruption are keen to listen.
What do these changing costs tell us about the integrity of the project?
Could it be that the cost of supplies is evolving in a suspicious way for a particular project?