Fostering a “Data Culture”

This post continues coverage of breakout sessions held at the 7th Annual Aid Management program Good Practices Workshop in Kathmandu, Nepal.

At the crux of the Data Revolution is an increased use of data for government decision making. However, this tenet is often coupled with the assumption that a data-driven culture already exists.

The Importance of Access

When asked how domestic data use could be ramped up, a representative from the Government of Malawi underscored the need for accessible data. Infrastructure limitations, such as spotty Internet connectivity or expensive technology, curb the ability to review – let alone analyze – information. In Malawi’s case, the government is currently grappling with making technology and accessibility affordable.

But is having both data and citizens online enough?

Encouraging Data-Driven Decision Making

Increased data availability does not guarantee an increased uptake or usage. As pointed out by a Government of Niger representative, removing access constraints does not automatically shift a bureaucratic or civic culture. Using data in decision making is a skill that needs to be learned, just as much as cleaning or verifying datasets and it requires a supportive culture.

So how do we shift from qualitative to quantitative decision making? With partner governments, Development Gateway is working to catalyze data uptake through identifying “data champions” – high-ranking officials in government departments who push their peers towards data-driven decision making. Importantly, building a data culture and improving accessibility are not mutually exclusive; both can be tackled in tandem, and are vital to making the Data Revolution work for everyone.

Image: Government of Malawi Representatives at #AMPWS2014.