Learning our lessons as we shape the post 2015 Data Revolution

The United Nations IEAG report on mobilizing the Data Revolution for development, opens with this truism:

"Without high-quality data providing the right information on the right things at the right time; designing, monitoring and evaluating effective policies becomes almost impossible."

The report goes on to highlight key recommendations for creating and using high-quality data, however, as AidData’s Samantha Custer pointed out, there is no need for the post-2015 Data Revolution to re-invent the wheel. As an organization with experience shaping and implementing data movements - such as the International Aid Transparency Initiative and Open Contracting - Development Gateway urges the United Nations to learn from the following five lessons while shaping the post-2015 Data Revolution:

  1. As the Masai say, make haste slowly; change won’t happen overnight. Adoption of processes for data production takes time. The institutional learning and buy-in required for data production requires a multi-directional “selling” of its importance and benefits - and the same process often needs repeating for data use, once critical mass on supply has been reached. With this need for “selling” in mind, it only follows that…
  2. Incentives are key. Whether encouraging the conception of innovative ideas, following new good practice guidelines, or fostering end-product uptake and use, there must be solid reasons why stakeholders should participate. Ideally, these incentives will be easily explainable, logical, and co-developed. But incentives are not the only aspect that should be co-created; knowledge and information solutions should also be...
  3. Implement early and often. No policy or practice fresh-off-the-shelf is going to perfectly fit every (or likely any) scenario. By following a cycle of implementation, evaluation, and incorporation of lessons learned into the next rollout, a new solution can become a good solution. To move from “new” to “good,” it’s important that implementers...
  4. Solicit stakeholder feedback. Over the past decade, at the core of DG’s approach has been collaborative, long-lasting partnerships with domestic governments to ensure that projects actually fit the unique needs of end users. While the scope of the Data Revolution may preclude the solicitation and incorporation of all possible feedback, stakeholder voice should be actively sought, encouraged, and taken into account as much as possible. This feedback is especially important, since Data Revolution advocates must also…
  5. Focus on demand for, not just supply of, data. While the report does include a call for international support of domestic capacity building, in clearer terms, this support will need to be both technical and financial. Spending time and resources on creating demand for data is just as critical as building up infrastructure for data production.

As an organization dedicated to furthering the common good, we look forward to helping harness data for impact.

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