For the development community, the focus on ‘data’ has been very much on open data: making public where aid dollars are being spent. This is no small task, and I welcome the rise of platforms and initiatives such as The World Bank’s Mapping for Results, DFID’s Project Map, aidinfo and the International Aid Transparency Initiative. Transparency about aid is very important - it raises public awareness of development work, it enhances accountability among both the givers and receivers of aid, and it can drive out waste, bureaucracy and corruption.
But we can do much more with data. Big business already gets this: companies from Tesco to Facebook have been using the data they collect to gain valuable insight on their users and drive efficiency for years. It’s time for governments and the third sector to catch up. In many cases these groups, such as microfinance organisations, local government and community health centres, already collect plenty of data, but don’t make much use of it.