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Launch: Responsible Data for Children (RD4C) Toolkit

RD4C Tools

The GovLab and UNICEF, as part of the Responsible Data for Children initiative (RD4C), are pleased to share a set of lightweight and user-friendly tools to support organizations and practitioners seeking to operationalize the RD4C Principles. These principles—Purpose-Driven, People-Centric, Participatory, Protective of Children’s Rights, Proportional, Professionally Accountable, and Prevention of Harms Across the Data Lifecycle—are especially important in the current moment, as actors around the world are taking a data-driven approach to the fight against COVID-19.
The initial components of the RD4C Toolkit are:
The RD4C Data Ecosystem Mapping Tool intends to help users to identify the systems generating data about children and the key components of those systems. After using this tool, users will be positioned to understand the breadth of data they generate and hold about children; assess data systems’ redundancies or gaps; identify opportunities for responsible data use; and achieve other insights.
The RD4C Decision Provenance Mapping methodology provides a way for actors designing or assessing data investments for children to identify key decision points and determine which internal and external parties influence those decision points. This distillation can help users to pinpoint any gaps and develop strategies for improving decision-making processes and advancing more professionally accountable data practices.
The RD4C Opportunity and Risk Diagnostic provides organizations with a way to take stock of the RD4C principles and how they might be realized as an organization reviews a data project or system. The high-level questions and prompts below are intended to help users identify areas in need of attention and to strategize next steps for ensuring more responsible handling of data for and about children across their organization.
Finally, the Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF developed an Ethical Assessment that “forms part of [their] safe data ecosystem, alongside data management and data protection policies and practices.” The tool reflects the RD4C Principles and aims to “provide an opportunity for project teams to reflect on the material consequences of their actions, and how their work will have real impacts on children’s lives.
RD4C launched in October 2019 with the release of the RD4C Synthesis Report, Selected Readings, and the RD4C Principles. Last month we published the The RD4C Case Studies, which analyze data systems deployed in diverse country environments, with a focus on their alignment with the RD4C Principles. The case studies are: Romania’s The Aurora Project, Childline Kenya, and Afghanistan’s Nutrition Online Database.

To learn more about Responsible Data for Children, visit or contact rd4c [at] To join the RD4C conversation and be alerted to future releases, subscribe at this link.

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LAUNCH: The Responsible Data for Children (RD4C) Case Studies

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This week, as part of the Responsible Data for Children initiative (RD4C), the GovLab and UNICEF launched a new case study series to provide insights on promising practice as well as barriers to realizing responsible data for children.
Drawing upon field-based research and established good practice, RD4C aims to highlight and support responsible handling of data for and about children; identify challenges and develop practical tools to assist practitioners in evaluating and addressing them; and encourage a broader discussion on actionable principles, insights, and approaches for responsible data management.
RD4C launched in October 2019 with the release of the RD4C Synthesis Report, Selected Readings, and the RD4C Principles: Purpose-Driven, People-Centric, Participatory, Protective of Children’s Rights, Proportional, Professionally Accountable, and Prevention of Harms Across the Data Lifecycle.
The RD4C Case Studies analyze data systems deployed in diverse country environments, with a focus on their alignment with the RD4C Principles. This week’s release includes case studies arising from field missions to Romania, Kenya, and Afghanistan in 2019. The data systems examined are: 
Romania’s The Aurora Project
The Aurora Project is a child protection platform developed by UNICEF Romania in collaboration with NGO and government partners. The system enables social workers and community health care providers to diagnose and monitor vulnerabilities experienced by children and their families. Through the administration of a child protection questionnaire, the system supports the determination of a minimum package of services needed by children and their families. It also enables child protection evaluation and planning work at the national level. The Aurora Project reflects many of the RD4C Principles through its collection of data for clear and well- defined purposes and the various training and guidance materials provided to users. UNICEF Romania and counterparts in the Romanian Government are still working to address challenges related to sensitive group data and the potential for disproportionate data collection and retention.
Childline Kenya
Childline Kenya is a helpline offering services for children subjected to violence or neglect. Since it began operations in 2006, trained counselors have responded to calls, logged major components for reporting purposes, and redirected callers to relevant services. The organization emphasizes training and the rights of children while ensuring its data collection is proportional and purpose-driven. Given the sensitivity of its work, it faces some difficulties with duplicative and complex data.
Afghanistan’s Nutrition Online Database
Afghanistan’s Nutrition Online Database is a web-based information system providing access to aggregated nutrition data to inform planning and service delivery at the national, provincial, and zonal level. The Public Nutrition Department (PND) within the Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) leads database management, with UNICEF Afghanistan acting as the lead technical developer and providing ongoing technical support. The system exists because missed use of potentially valuable data is a common challenge across the children’s data ecosystem Afghanistan. The Nutrition Online Database tries to spur the use of existing and newly developed nutrition data streams that otherwise might not inform potentially life saving nutrition planning and service delivery. It is the product of a participatory development process with key stakeholders across sectors and actors within beneficiary communities. PND, UNICEF Afghanistan, and other stakeholders support professionally accountable data use through training efforts and working groups but remain challenged by the fragmentation of nutrition systems, mandates, formats, and indicators. These factors could contribute to challenges
in tracking decision-making processes affecting data responsibility across the nutrition data ecosystem.

To learn more about Responsible Data for Children, visit or contact rd4c [at] To join the RD4C conversation and be alerted to future releases, subscribe at this link

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Wanted: Data Stewards: (Re-)Defining The Roles and Responsibilities of Data Stewards for an Age of Data Collaboration

By Stefaan G. Verhulst, Andrew Zahuranec, Andrew Young, and Michelle Winowatan

This article was originally published in Data & Policy, the peer-reviewed, open access venue dedicated to the potential of data science to address important policy challenges.

As data grows increasingly prevalent in our economy, it is increasingly clear, too, that tremendous societal value can be derived from reusing and combining previously separate datasets. One avenue that holds particular promise are data collaboratives. Data collaboratives are a new form of partnership in which data (such as data owned by corporations) or data expertise is made accessible for external parties (such as academics or statistical offices) working in the public interest. By bringing together a wide range of inter-sectoral expertise to bear on the data, collaboration can result in new insights and innovations, and can help unlock the public good potential of previously siloed data or expertise.

Yet, not all data collaboratives are successful or go beyond pilots. Based on research and analysis of hundreds of data collaboratives, one factor seems to stand out as determinative of success above all others — whether there exist individuals or teams within data-holding organizations who are empowered to proactively initiate, facilitate and coordinate data collaboratives toward the public interest. We call these individuals and teams “data stewards.”

They systematize the process of partnering, and help scale efforts when there are fledgling signs of success. Data stewards are essential for accelerating the re-use of data in the public interest by providing functional access, and more generally, to unlock the potential of our data age. Data stewards form an important — and new — link in the data value chain.

In its final report, the European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on Business-to-Government (B2G) Data Sharing also noted the need for data stewards to enable responsible, accountable data sharing for the public interest. In their report, they write:

“A key success factor in setting up sustainable and responsible B2G partnerships is the existence, within both public- and private-sector organisations, of individuals or teams that are empowered to proactively initiate, facilitate and coordinate B2G data sharing when necessary. As such, ‘data stewards’ should become a recognised function.”

The report goes on further to acknowledge the need to scope, design, and establish a network or a community of practice around data stewardship.

Wanted: Data Stewards

A new position paper, released by The GovLab within the context of the UN Statistical Commission High-Level Forum on Official Statistics which focused on “Data stewardship — a solution for official statistics’ predicament?” seeks to begin that work. The paper, titled “Wanted: Data Stewards: (Re-)Defining The Roles and Responsibilities of Data Stewards for an Age of Data Collaboration” tackles questions regarding the profile and potential of data stewards. It aims to provide an operational roadmap to support the implementation (or expansion) of data stewardship functions in public- and private-sector entities; and to start building a community of expertise.

Moreover, it addresses the tendency to conflate the roles of data stewards with those of individuals or groups who might better be described as chief privacy, chief data or chief security officers. This slippage is perhaps understandable, we need to redefine the role that is somewhat broader. While data management, privacy and security are key components of trusted and effective data collaboratives, the real goal is to re-use data for broader social goals (while preventing any potential harms that may result from sharing).

In particular the position paper — which captures lived experience of numerous data stewards- seeks to provide more clarity on how data stewards can accomplish these duties by:

  • Defining the responsibilities of a data steward; and
  • Identifying the roles which a data steward must fill to achieve these responsibilities

Responsibilities and Roles of Data Stewards

According to the position paper, data stewards have three responsibilities. First, they collaborate, working with others to unlock the value of data when a clear public interest case exists. Second, they protect customers, users, corporate interests, and the public from harm that might come from sharing or use. Third, they act, ensuring relevant parties put the insights generated to use.

These responsibilities manifest in the five roles that a data steward must fill. These roles are:

  • Partnership and Community Engagement, to reach out and vet potential partners while also informing beneficiaries of insights generated from efforts.
  • Internal Coordination and Staff Engagement, to coordinate actors internally and gain sign-off from them.
  • Data Audit, Ethics, and Assessment of Value and Risk, to monitor and assess the value, potential, and risk of all data held within an organization.
  • Dissemination and Communication of Findings, to act as the “face” of the company’s data projects and communicate shared outcomes to external actors.
  • Nurture Data Collaboratives to Sustainability, to work with stakeholders to gather the needed resources and support for broad, long-term impact.

Next steps

Moving forward, The GovLab will engage with a broad set of stakeholders to explore the issues raised above and finetune the roles and responsibilities of data stewards integrating lived experience. In particular we will seek to understand if and whether there are any differences between data stewards in the private and public sector; and what are common challenges or practices.

We will seek to help implement data stewards within organizations as to make data collaboration and data responsibility to be more systemic, sustainable, and responsible.

Finally, we will examine the creation of a formal network of data stewards — as pledged and recommended for the High Level Expert Group. Toward that end The GovLab, and a dedicated scoping group, will seek to hold one or more data stewards camps or workshops to further the design features and prototype possible organisational and governance structures. Among the areas that will be considered further are the following.

  • Need and incentives: what are or could be the incentives of data stewards/corporations to join the network?
  • Metrics: what would success look like? Organisationally? Societal impact? Market shaping impact? Raising the bar?
  • Governance: What should the governance structure look like for the network? What can we learn from other models?
  • Operations: How to structure the network? Where to locate it (in existing associations or a new organisation?) What innovative models of organisations would work here?
  • Sustainability and funding model: How to ensure long-term sustainability? What should be the funding model?

Organizations and individuals interested in joining this work can contact to learn more.

They can also continue to follow the Data Stewards Network for updates on The GovLab’s latest research on the subject.

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Responsible Data for Children (RD4C): 10 Takeaways from the Literature


In late 2019, The GovLab and UNICEF launched Responsible Data for Children (RD4C), an initiative providing guidance, tools, and leadership to support the responsible handling of data for and about children. We shared the first outputs from the initiative in November, including an annotated collection of Selected Readings on RD4C, a report synthesizing lessons learned from field-based research and our review of the literature, and the RD4C Principles. Across the RD4C initiative, we seek to enable governments, communities, development actors, and others to put the best interests of children and a child rights approach at the center of their data activities. 
In this piece, we highlight 10 key takeaways from the Selected Readings on RD4C. Our review of the literature focused on  policies, technical guidance, and other relevant documentation driving activity in the space. The review was ecosystem-wide, considering not only global policies uniquely focused on children’s data, but also documentation with any relevant guidance or lessons learned. For example, the review looked at documentation on a specific topical domain (e.g. guidance on handling data about refugee children) or policies guiding more general development or humanitarian action that featured some reflection on data handling. 
The ten takeaways included below reflect the key areas of focus as well as the emerging narratives that are present in today’s writings on the subject. This overview and summary is neither fully comprehensive of the many topics associated with children and data, nor should it be read as an endorsement of all the arguments and recommendations posed in the literature. For each takeaway, we link to and summarize how relevant works discuss the issue. 

Takeaways from the Literature on RD4C

1. Data can be a powerful resource to protect and improve children’s lives.

UNICEF’s Data for Children Strategic Framework begins by arguing “smart demand, supply, and use of data drives better results for children.” UNICEF’s Ethical Considerations When Using Social Media for Evidence Generation makes a similar point. It finds value in social media data for amplifying humanitarian organizations’ ability to increase their situational awareness, bolster real-time monitoring capacities, and crowdsource relevant insights. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) Data Responsibility Guidelines state data is a critical component of humanitarian response and suggests the management of digital data relating to crisis contexts, affected people, and humanitarian response operations allows the humanitarian community to respond in a more effective and efficient manner. Other potential benefits of data for children represented in the literature include mitigating risks of children dropping out of school and enabling family reunification, among other topics. Additionally, Global Kids Online, an international research project funded by UNICEF and WePROTECT Global Alliance, created a series of method guides addressing the fact that digital media environments increasingly mediate a host of activities and experiences important to children’s cognitive, emotional, and social well-being. 

2. Data about children requires an additional duty of care in comparison to data about adults, and responsible data approaches must accordingly adhere to higher standards and security measures—in part because of potential long-term and unknown consequences of data’s use.

The Technical Working Group on Data Collection on Violence Against Children studied over 80 documents on ethical issues around data and children and found that Privacy and Confidentiality represented a top concern across a variety of framework and guideline types. 
A similar point is repeated in UNICEF’s Ethical Research Involving Children in Humanitarian Settings documentation. In this piece, UNICEF’s writers argue the collection and use of children’s data occurs in contexts with complex and inequitable power relations. These power asymmetries should be considered when pursuing the beneficial use of children’s data. In the same piece, the authors note children in humanitarian settings are subject to additional vulnerabilities beyond those that are ordinally occurring for children. Namely, challenges arising from structures for children’s support and development breaking down in such settings. 
World Vision International’s Data Protection, Privacy, and Security for Humanitarian & Development Programs acknowledges the complexities of data protection in humanitarian contexts, but also argues it is “incumbent on this sector to strive toward the highest level of integrity, ethics, and technical ability” to ensure the responsible handling of data on children given their higher degree of vulnerability. 
UNICEF’s Children and the Data Cycle: Rights and Ethics in a Big Data World posits the voices of the world’s children and those who advocate on their behalf are absent in an era of increasing dependence on data science and big data. Due to the potential for severe, long-lasting and differential impacts on children, the document argues child rights need to be integrated into the agenda on ethics and data science. 
Furthermore, as described in Child Privacy in the Age of Web 2.0 and 3.0, questions and challenges still remain regarding the applicability of concepts and provisions, like GDPR’s “right to be forgotten,” to children and their data, adding additional complexity. More than just a concern for digital activities, the ongoing accumulation of data about children throughout their lifetime can create a variety of unforeseen risks and challenges. 

3. Responsible data approaches for children should encompass 1) measures to determine and communicate the potential value of data for those beneficiaries; 2) actions to ensure data protection and a legal basis for data activities; and 3) efforts to ensure that the potential value outweighs identified risks.

 In UNOCHA’s Building Data Responsibility into Humanitarian Action, data responsibility goes beyond the aims of data protection and privacy. It encompasses principles, policies, and tools aimed at unlocking the value of data in humanitarian contexts while mitigating risks and avoiding harms. The UN Global Pulse’s Privacy and Data Protection Principles embraces similar ideas, such as a) Purpose Compatibility and Risk and Harm Assessment; and b) Risk Mitigation, as central concerns for its responsible use of data. These principles underline the importance of understanding value as well as risks of data for humanitarian and development work.
UNICEF’s Children and the Data Cycle: Rights and Ethics in a Big Data World raises concerns on privacy and loss of control of personal data over data’s lifespan. It also highlights the problem of direct or inadvertent discrimination and profiling, scope creep, and technological dependency, and provides approaches to address ethical issues in the child data cycle. Regarding metadata, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Privacy’s International’s “Doing No Harm” in the Digital Era identifies robust risk assessment and mitigation strategies that humanitarian organizations must develop to ensure that their use of new technologies does not result in any harm.
The Framework for Data Sharing in Practice, from UNOCHA and Protection Information Management (PIM), highlights a Joint Benefit and Risk Assessment to systematically and collaboratively assess data sharing’s value and risks and modify actions accordingly. 

4. Digital and connected identifiers can be useful for providing personalized services, but can also create additional, significant risks to children and their families.

Data-driven digital identities are seen as game-changers across contexts but especially for children and other vulnerable groups. As described in UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2017 report, “as more and more children go online around the world, [digital technology] is increasingly changing childhood.” 
These sentiments are repeated in other documents. In its Privacy Impact Assessment of Cash Based Interventions, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) highlights the issues of profiling and social sorting as risks in the increased generation, sharing, and use of beneficiaries’ identity information. Responsible Data’s Development Book echoes these concerns, explaining that while data in the wrong hands can put individuals at risk, even data in the “right” hands can lead to discrimination or exclusion. Categorization or documentation of individuals can have unintended consequences even when actors are not acting maliciously. 
For adults, biometric identifiers are driving increasing parts of the responsible data literature. A working paper from the International Labour Office guides social protection practitioners seeking to create efficiency benefits from highly sensitive biometric identifiers while mitigating risks. The Center for Global Development, meanwhile, produced guiding documents on biometric identity information collection. These materials advocate for upfront privacy impact assessments to identify potential sensitivities related to data use. These researchers also outlined principles on inclusion, robust and responsive design, and accountable governance of identifiers and provide good-practice examples from countries at the forefront of ID management. Even in 2010, the Columbia Human Rights Law Review published a note highlighting the risks of collecting biometric data from refugees. More recently, ICRC noted that when biometric data collection is linked to services, such as those provided to refugees, consent cannot be viewed as free and fair.
UNICEF is taking a considered approach to the use of biometrics. Its report, “Faces, Fingerprints and Feet: Guidance on assessing the value of including biometric technologies in UNICEF-supported programmes,” provides decision-makers with key questions and criteria to ensure critical assessment and due diligence on benefits and risks of investments in biometrics. 

5. Children and their needs and interests should be at the center of any data collection intervention.

Human-centered design is a common element of many responsible data strategies. The Engine Room, a research center, published the Handbook of the Modern Development Specialist, which focuses especially on the issue of human-centric data practices as key to responsible data use in development. With relevance for famine relief in general, not just relating to children, Oxfam’s Responsible Program Data Policy premises itself on the idea that responsible data practices at their core must safeguard people’s rights and ensure dignity throughout the data collection and use process. 
The Interagency Guidelines for Case Management & Child Protection recommend users prioritize the best interests of the child. In reference to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it makes clear that the best interests of the child should be “the basis of all decisions and actions taken.” 
Responsible Data’s Development Book notes the increasing reliance on quantification in development work may be motivated by funders, governments, financial incentives, or research goals. However, it argues a critical approach to avoid the use of “data for data’s sake.” 
Regarding social media, just one small part of the data ecosystem, UNICEF’s Ethical Considerations When Using Social Media for Evidence Generation states it is no longer sufficient for users of data and technologies to leave ethical reflection to subject-matter experts. Rather, child advocates who use social media data need to be brought into the conversation and to understand and reflect on the ethical implications of the use and potential outcomes of adopting these technologies and the data they generate. 

6. Broadly applicable frameworks and guidelines can help to establish good practices, but recognition of regional context and norms are often key when seeking to ensure the responsibility of data approaches involving children.

UNICEF’s Data for Children Strategic Framework’s five principles include “different data are appropriate for different uses and contexts.” Similarly, a resolution on Privacy and International Humanitarian Action agreed at an international conference of data protection and privacy commissioners committed members to consider the specific needs of international humanitarian actors operating in different contexts and with different externalities at play. In other words, a one-size-fits-all approach is not realistic. 
Responsible Data’s Development Book suggests a number of questions and issues to consider, but notes a project’s context determines the challenges its sponsors will face. While defining “sensitive personal data,” Privacy International’s Guide for Policy Engagement on Data Protection states there is no exhaustive list of what constitutes sensitive personal data and recommends special consideration for categories such as financial data, society security, and data relating to children. Privacy International also argues that national and local contexts should also be considered; for example, caste information is treated as highly sensitive personal data in India. 
Global Kids Online’s report Addressing Diversities and Inequalities calls attention to how the conceptualizations of social actors and their locations may be rich in international contexts where there has been prior research on a variety of aspects. However, these conceptualizations, when applied in other contexts, can lead to overly broad characterizations and even stereotyping. It can imply, for instance, there is an “average 12-year-old.” Still, it is also clear certain responsible data standards and principles are non-negotiable even if certain good practices depend on the context.  

7. The participation of and consultation with children and their caregivers around the collection and use of children’s data is an important component of data responsibility.

A paper in Conflict and Health, for example, highlights the need to consult with beneficiaries and data subjects. The authors make clear this engagement can be a complex undertaking that is highly dependent on context, especially in humanitarian settings. Additionally, The Signal Code from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative echoes this argument, including “the right to data agency” as one of its five human rights associated with humanitarian information activities. Similar views are found in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Privacy Guidelines, which includes individual participation in its eight Basic Principles of National Application. Global Kids Online’s method guide suggests children should be actively involved in the research process when research pertains to children’s opportunities. It also argues for deploying participatory and child-centered approaches to enable policy-makers and practitioners to design initiatives that respond to children’s needs. 
Finally, USAID’s Considerations for Using Data Responsibly at USAID states its team must respect the agency of its data subjects in all humanitarian efforts. Ensuring children and their caregivers can exert meaningful agency over children’s data is, however, a significant challenge, as unforeseen data linkages and re-uses can emerge over time. 

8. The consent of data subjects and their caregivers is important, but obtaining meaningful consent is a complex and, at times, impossible undertaking when dealing with children, especially in fragile humanitarian settings.

The Global Protection Cluster, European Commission, and USAID Interagency Guidelines for Case Management & Child Protection encourages actors to seek informed consent and/or informed assent, demonstrating both the importance of consent and the challenge of obtaining it in certain situations. The ICRC Handbook on Data Protection in Humanitarian Action also highlights the importance of consulting children in decisions that affect them but notes humanitarian actors must take “particular care” to ensure children understand the risks and purported benefits of the collection and use of their data, otherwise the consent they provide will not be meaningful. Indeed, a subsequent article in Humanitarian Law & Policy describes how ICRC does not operate under the belief “consent provides a legally valid basis for data processing in many emergency situations.” 
Meanwhile, UNICEF’s Children and the Data Cycle: Rights and Ethics in a Big Data World explains approaches adopted to ensure the realization of the rights of adolescent should differ from those adopted for younger children. Consent policies, UNICEF argues, ought to recognize children’s development, including their increasing competencies, analytical capacities and agency. In another report, Child Privacy in the Age of Web 2.0 and 3.0, UNICEF outlines national, regional, and international consent provisions, noting the adoption of some norms aimed at protecting children’s privacy and their personal information pre-date the advent of the Internet. 

9. Responsibilities around the ethical use of children’s data are ill-defined and distributed. Greater cooperation and improved partnerships could be a means for addressing these challenges.

The need for and challenge of determining a locus of accountability in the event of data-related harms is prevalent across strategies and policies reviewed but with little commonality in proposed approaches. The UN Privacy Policy Group’s Principles on Personal Data Protection and Privacy, consistent with many other efforts included here, in part intends to “harmonize standards for the protection of personal data,” highlighting the current fragmentation of policies, expectations, and responsibilities. 
Improved collaboration could help to address these challenges. Mapping and Comparing Responsible Data Approaches, developed by the Centre for Innovation and The GovLab, highlights the need for leadership and inter-agency coordination around data responsibility to drive good practice and improve coordination and cooperation. The Global Food Security Cluster and UN OCHA Field Guide to Data Sharing also makes clear that effectively leveraging data in humanitarian contexts is a joint effort, requiring good practices and collaboration across organizations, as well as across sectors. The Principles for Digital Development also culminate with the push for organizations leveraging technology to provide services to children to be more collaborative. Finally, a joint report prepared for UNICEF, UNHCR, and the ICRC also points to the value of data sharing in enhancing “coordination and collaboration across agencies” tasked with providing services to vulnerable children. 

10 Low quality and/or unrepresentative data could negatively impact the responsible use of data. A focus on accuracy is essential if data will be used to inform decision-making affecting children.

Though not specifically focused on children’s data, the European Union (through GDPR), the International Organization for Migration, and UNHCR, respectively, all consider data accuracy as central principles for responsible data handling. In line with the Principle on Data Accuracy, UNOCHA’s Data Responsibility Guidelines include determining accuracy and integrity of data as a necessary step when collecting and receiving data. The Center for Democracy & Technology, a technology nonprofit advocacy and research center, reviewed 18 data use frameworks and recognized the Data Quality Principle, which states personal data should be relevant to the purposes for which it is used, and, to the extent necessary for those purposes, should be accurate, complete, and kept up-to-date as a consistent and foundational principle. 
A lack of comparable data can also create issues. The Global Agenda for Children’s Rights in the Digital Age, for example, notes the challenges involved in using data to benefit children’s lives resulting from the lack of comparable baseline data related to policies and programs, as well as issues of transferability regarding solutions developed in the Global North and their applicability in the Global South. Global Kids Online’s Addressing Diversities and Inequalities method guide also notes research questions transferred (e.g. from the global North to the global South, or from wealthy neighborhoods to impoverished ones) without providing attention to local and international inequalities can generate contaminated knowledge.

Our Selected Readings on RD4C will continue to grow and evolve over time. Please do share any materials that you feel should be included in our reading list. With your help, we will seek to maintain a useful and current curation of important literature in the field. Please send your suggestions to

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The GovLab Index: Open Data – 2018 Edition

By Alexandra Shaw, Michelle Winowatan, Andrew Young, and Stefaan Verhulst
Please find below the latest installment in The GovLab Index series, inspired by Harper’s Index. “The GovLab Index: Open Data 2018” provides an update to our previous Open Data installments: The GovLab Index: Open Data, (Updated and Expanded of 2013, The GovLab Index: Open Data (Updated) of 2015, and The GovLab Index: Open Data – 2016 Edition.
To share additional, illustrative statistics on open data, or other issues at the nexus of technology and governance, please reach out to Andrew Young ( 

Value and Impact

  • Direct market value of open data in EU from 2016 to 2020: estimated EUR 325 billion
  • Predicted number of Open Data jobs in Europe by 2020: 100,000 (35% increase)
  • The projected year at which all 28+ EU member countries will have a fully operating open data portal: 2020
  • Between 2016 and 2020, the market size of open data in Europe is expected to increase by 36.9%, and reach this value by 2020: EUR 75.7 billion
  • Estimated cost savings for public administration in the EU by 2020: EUR 1.7 billion
  • 2013 estimates of potential value of global open data, as estimated by McKinsey: $3 trillion annually
  • Potential yearly value of open data in Australia: AUD 25 billion
  • Value of Transport for London open data projects: £115 million per year
  • Value that open data can help unlock in economic value annually across seven sectors in the United States: $3-5 trillion

Public Views on and Use of Open Government Data

  • Number of Americans who do not trust the federal government or social media sites to protect their data: Approximately 50%
  • Key findings from The Economist Intelligence Unit report on Open Government Data Demand:
    • Percentage of respondent who say the key reason why governments open up their data is to create greater trust between the government and citizens: 70%
    • Percentage of respondent who say OGD plays an important role in improving lives of citizens: 78%
    • Percentage of respondent who say OGD helps with daily decision making especially for transportation, education, environment: 53%
    • Percentage of respondent who cite lack of awareness about OGD and its potential use and benefits as the greatest barrier to usage: 50%
    • Percentage of respondent who say they lack access to usable and relevant data: 31%
    • Percentage of respondent who think they don’t have sufficient technical skills to use open government data: 25%
    • Percentage of respondent who feel the number of OGD apps available is insufficient, indicating an opportunity for app developers: 20%
    • Percentage of respondent who say OGD has the potential to generate economic value and new business opportunity: 61%
    • Percentage of respondent who say they don’t trust governments to keep data safe, protected, and anonymized: 19%

Efforts and Involvement

  • Time that’s passed since open government advocates convened to create a set of principles for open government data – the instance that started the open data government movement: 10 years
  • Countries participating in the Open Government Partnership today: 79 OGP participating countries and 20 subnational governments
  • Percentage of “open data readiness” in Europe according to European Data Portal: 72%
    • Open data readiness consists of four indicators which are presence of policy, national coordination, licensing norms, and use of data.
  • Number of U.S. cities with Open Data portals: 27
  • Number of governments who have adopted the International Open Data Charter: 62
  • Number of non-state organizations endorsing the International Open Data Charter: 57
  • Number of countries analyzed by the Open Data Index: 94
  • Number of Latin American countries that do not have open data portals as of 2017: 4 total – Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua
  • Number of cities participating in the Open Data Census: 39

Demand for Open Data

  • Open data demand measured by frequency of open government data use according to The Economist Intelligence Unit report:
    • Australia
      • Monthly: 15% of respondents
      • Quarterly: 22% of respondents
      • Annually: 10% of respondents
    • Finland
      • Monthly: 28% of respondents
      • Quarterly: 18% of respondents
      • Annually: 20% of respondents
    • France
      • Monthly: 27% of respondents
      • Quarterly: 17% of respondents
      • Annually: 19% of respondents
    • India
      • Monthly: 29% of respondents
      • Quarterly: 20% of respondents
      • Annually: 10% of respondents
    • Singapore
      • Monthly: 28% of respondents
      • Quarterly: 15% of respondents
      • Annually: 17% of respondents
    • UK
      • Monthly: 23% of respondents
      • Quarterly: 21% of respondents
      • Annually: 15% of respondents
    • US
      • Monthly: 16% of respondents
      • Quarterly: 15% of respondents
      • Annually: 20% of respondents
  • Number of FOIA requests received in the US for fiscal year 2017: 818,271
  • Number of FOIA request processed in the US for fiscal year 2017: 823,222
  • Distribution of FOIA requests in 2017 among top 5 agencies with highest number of request:
    • DHS: 45%
    • DOJ: 10%
    • NARA: 7%
    • DOD: 7%
    • HHS: 4%

Examining Datasets

  • Country with highest index score according to ODB Leaders Edition: Canada (76 out of 100)
  • Country with lowest index score according to ODB Leaders Edition: Sierra Leone (22 out of 100)
  • Number of datasets open in the top 30 governments according to ODB Leaders Edition: Fewer than 1 in 5
  • Average percentage of datasets that are open in the top 30 open data governments according to ODB Leaders Edition: 19%
  • Average percentage of datasets that are open in the top 30 open data governments according to ODB Leaders Edition by sector/subject:
    • Budget: 30%
    • Companies: 13%
    • Contracts: 27%
    • Crime: 17%
    • Education: 13%
    • Elections: 17%
    • Environment: 20%
    • Health: 17%
    • Land: 7%
    • Legislation: 13%
    • Maps: 20%
    • Spending: 13%
    • Statistics: 27%
    • Trade: 23%
    • Transport: 30%
  • Percentage of countries that release data on government spending according to ODB Leaders Edition: 13%
  • Percentage of government data that is updated at regular intervals according to ODB Leaders Edition: 74%
  • Number of datasets available through:
  • Number of datasets classed as “open” in 94 places worldwide analyzed by the Open Data Index: 11%
  • Percentage of open datasets in the Caribbean, according to Open Data Census: 7%
    • Number of companies whose data is available through OpenCorporates: 158,589,950

City Open Data

  • New York City
  • Singapore
    • Number of datasets published in Singapore: 1,480
    • Percentage of datasets with standardized format: 35%
    • Percentage of datasets made as raw as possible: 25%
  • Barcelona
    • Number of datasets published in Barcelona: 443
    • Open data demand in Barcelona measured by:
      • Number of unique sessions in the month of September 2018: 5,401
    • Quality of datasets published in Barcelona according to Tim Berners Lee 5-star Open Data: 3 stars
  • London
    • Number of datasets published in London: 762
    • Number of data requests since October 2014: 325
  • Bandung
    • Number of datasets published in Bandung: 1,417
  • Buenos Aires
    • Number of datasets published in Buenos Aires: 216
  • Dubai
    • Number of datasets published in Dubai: 267
  • Melbourne
    • Number of datasets published in Melbourne: 199


GovLab Blog

Data Collaboration and Data Responsibility for Migration

Today, the GovLab is pleased to share three resources examining how private data sources, when leveraged responsibly and collaboratively, can provide insights for addressing the challenges and opportunities of migration. As it stands, the UN estimates that about 258 million people across the globe live in a country other than the one in which they were born, but humanitarian organizations, public sector actors, and civil society groups often lack access to the most useful datasets for understanding and responding to issues and opportunities arising from migration – including but not limited to the movement of refugees and others forcibly displaced.

‘Talking Migration Data’ with the International Organization for Migration (IOM)

In this video, the GovLab’s Co-Founder and Chief Research and Development Officer Stefaan Verhulst discusses the potential of analyzing new sources of data can increase our understanding of migration, and improve services and interventions in the field.

The Potential and Practice of Data Collaboratives for Migration in Stanford Social Innovation Review

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In a new article published by the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Stefaan Verhulst and Andrew Young explore how private data sources, when leveraged responsibly and collaboratively, can provide insights for addressing the challenges and opportunities of migration.

The GovLab Selected Readings on Data Responsibility, Refugees and Migration

Finally, the GovLab research team, including Kezia Paladina, Alexandra Shaw, Michelle Winowatan, Stefaan Verhulst, and Andrew Young, released an annotated and curated collection of recommended works on responsible approaches for leveraging data to address challenges related to refugees and migration.

Data and its uses for Governance GovLab Blog Selected Readings

The GovLab Selected Readings on Data Responsibility, Refugees and Migration

By Kezia Paladina, Alexandra Shaw, Michelle Winowatan, Stefaan Verhulst, and Andrew Young
As part of an ongoing effort to build a knowledge base for the field of opening governance by organizing and disseminating its learnings, the GovLab Selected Readings series provides an annotated and curated collection of recommended works on key opening governance topics.
Special thanks to Paul Currion whose data responsibility literature review gave us a headstart when developing the below. (Check out his article listed below on Refugee Identity)
The collection below is also meant to complement our article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review on Data Collaboration for Migration where we emphasize the need for a Data Responsibility Framework moving forward.
From climate change to politics to finance, there is growing recognition that some of the most intractable problems of our era are information problems. In recent years, the ongoing refugee crisis has increased the call for new data-driven approaches to address the many challenges and opportunities arising from migration. While data – including data from the private sector – holds significant potential value for informing analysis and targeted international and humanitarian response to (forced) migration, decision-makers often lack an actionable understanding of if, when and how data could be collected, processed, stored, analyzed, used, and shared in a responsible manner.
Data responsibility – including the responsibility to protect data and shield its subjects from harms, and the responsibility to leverage and share data when it can provide public value – is an emerging field seeking to go beyond just privacy concerns. The forced migration arena has a number of particularly important issues impacting responsible data approaches, including the risks of leveraging data regarding individuals fleeing a hostile or repressive government.
In this edition of the GovLab’s Selected Readings series, we examine the emerging literature on the data responsibility approaches in the refugee and forced migration space – part of an ongoing series focused on Data Responsibiltiy. The below reading list features annotated readings related to the Policy and Practice of data responsibility for refugees, and the specific responsibility challenges regarding Identity and Biometrics.

Data Responsibility and Refugees – Policy and Practice

International Organization for Migration (IOM) (2010) IOM Data Protection Manual. Geneva: IOM.

  • This IOM manual includes 13 data protection principles related to the following activities: lawful and fair collection, specified and legitimate purpose, data quality, consent, transfer to third parties, confidentiality, access and transparency, data security, retention and personal data, application of the principles, ownership of personal data, oversight, compliance and internal remedies (and exceptions).
  • For each principle, the IOM manual features targeted data protection guidelines, and templates and checklists are included to help foster practical application.

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre / OCHA (eds.) (2008) Guidance on Profiling Internally Displaced Persons. Geneva: Inter-Agency Standing Committee.

  • This NRC document contains guidelines on gathering better data on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), based on country context.
  • IDP profile is defined as number of displaced persons, location, causes of displacement, patterns of displacement, and humanitarian needs among others.
  • It further states that collecting IDPs data is challenging and the current condition of IDPs data are hampering assistance programs.
  • Chapter I of the document explores the rationale for IDP profiling. Chapter II describes the who aspect of profiling: who IDPs are and common pitfalls in distinguishing them from other population groups. Chapter III describes the different methodologies that can be used in different contexts and suggesting some of the advantages and disadvantages of each, what kind of information is needed and when it is appropriate to profile.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Model agreement on the sharing of personal data with Governments in the context of hand-over of the refugee status determination process. Geneva: UNHCR.

  • This document from UNHCR provides a template of agreement guiding the sharing of data between a national government and UNHCR. The model agreement’s guidance is aimed at protecting the privacy and confidentiality of individual data while promoting improvements to service delivery for refugees.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (2015). Policy on the Protection of Personal Data of Persons of Concern to UNHCR. Geneva: UNHCR.

  • This policy outlines the rules and principles regarding the processing of personal data of persons engaged by UNHCR with the purpose of ensuring that the practice is consistent with UNGA’s regulation of computerized personal data files that was established to protect individuals’ data and privacy.
  • UNHCR require its personnel to apply the following principles when processing personal data: (i) Legitimate and fair processing (ii) Purpose specification (iii) Necessity and proportionality (iv) Accuracy (v) Respect for the rights of the data subject (vi) Confidentiality (vii) Security (viii) Accountability and supervision.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (2015) Privacy Impact Assessment of UNHCR Cash Based Interventions.

  • This impact assessment focuses on privacy issues related to financial assistance for refugees in the form of cash transfers. For international organizations like UNHCR to determine eligibility for cash assistance, data “aggregation, profiling, and social sorting techniques,” are often needed, leading a need for a responsible data approach.
  • This Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) aims to identify the privacy risks posed by their program and seek to enhance safeguards that can mitigate those risks.
  • Key issues raised in the PIA involves the challenge of ensuring that individuals’ data will not be used for purposes other than those initially specified.

Data Responsibility in Identity and Biometrics

Bohlin, A. (2008) “Protection at the Cost of Privacy? A Study of the Biometric Registration of Refugees.” Lund: Faculty of Law of the University of Lund.

  • This 2008 study focuses on the systematic biometric registration of refugees conducted by UNHCR in refugee camps around the world, to understand whether enhancing the registration mechanism of refugees contributes to their protection and guarantee of human rights, or whether refugee registration exposes people to invasions of privacy.
  • Bohlin found that, at the time, UNHCR failed to put a proper safeguards in the case of data dissemination, exposing the refugees data to the risk of being misused. She goes on to suggest data protection regulations that could be put in place in order to protect refugees’ privacy.

Currion, Paul. (2018) “The Refugee Identity.” Medium.

  • Developed as part of a DFID-funded initiative, this essay considers Data Requirements for Service Delivery within Refugee Camps, with a particular focus on refugee identity.
  • Among other findings, Currion finds that since “the digitisation of aid has already begun…aid agencies must therefore pay more attention to the way in which identity systems affect the lives and livelihoods of the forcibly displaced, both positively and negatively.”
  • Currion argues that a Responsible Data approach, as opposed to a process defined by a Data Minimization principle, provides “useful guidelines,” but notes that data responsibility “still needs to be translated into organisational policy, then into institutional processes, and finally into operational practice.”

Farraj, A. (2010) “Refugees and the Biometric Future: The Impact of Biometrics on Refugees and Asylum Seekers.” Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 42 (2010): 891.

  • This article argues that biometrics help refugees and asylum seekers establish their identity, which is important for ensuring the protection of their rights and service delivery.
  • However, Farraj also describes several risks related to biometrics, such as, misidentification and misuse of data, leading to a need for proper approaches for the collection, storage, and utilization of the biometric information by government, international organizations, or other parties.  

GSMA (2017) Landscape Report: Mobile Money, Humanitarian Cash Transfers and Displaced Populations. London: GSMA.

  • This paper from GSMA seeks to evaluate how mobile technology can be helpful in refugee registration, cross-organizational data sharing, and service delivery processes.
  • One of its assessments is that the use of mobile money in a humanitarian context depends on the supporting regulatory environment that contributes to unlocking the true potential of mobile money. The examples include extension of SIM dormancy period to anticipate infrequent cash disbursements, ensuring that persons without identification are able to use the mobile money services, and so on.
  • Additionally, GMSA argues that mobile money will be most successful when there is an ecosystem to support other financial services such as remittances, airtime top-ups, savings, and bill payments. These services will be especially helpful in including displaced populations in development.

GSMA (2017) Refugees and Identity: Considerations for mobile-enabled registration and aid delivery. London: GSMA.

  • This paper emphasizes the importance of registration in the context of humanitarian emergency, because being registered and having a document that proves this registration is key in acquiring services and assistance.
  • Studying cases of Kenya and Iraq, the report concludes by providing three recommendations to improve mobile data collection and registration processes: 1) establish more flexible KYC for mobile money because where refugees are not able to meet existing requirements; 2) encourage interoperability and data sharing to avoid fragmented and duplicative registration management; and 3) build partnership and collaboration among governments, humanitarian organizations, and multinational corporations.

Jacobsen, Katja Lindskov (2015) “Experimentation in Humanitarian Locations: UNHCR and Biometric Registration of Afghan Refugees.” Security Dialogue, Vol 46 No. 2: 144–164.

  • In this article, Jacobsen studies the biometric registration of Afghan refugees, and considers how “humanitarian refugee biometrics produces digital refugees at risk of exposure to new forms of intrusion and insecurity.”

Jacobsen, Katja Lindskov (2017) “On Humanitarian Refugee Biometrics and New Forms of Intervention.” Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 1–23.

  • This article traces the evolution of the use of biometrics at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – moving from a few early pilot projects (in the early-to-mid-2000s) to the emergence of a policy in which biometric registration is considered a ‘strategic decision’.

Manby, Bronwen (2016) “Identification in the Context of Forced Displacement.” Washington DC: World Bank Group. Accessed August 21, 2017.

  • In this paper, Bronwen describes the consequences of not having an identity in a situation of forced displacement. It prevents displaced population from getting various services and creates higher chance of exploitation. It also lowers the effectiveness of humanitarian actions, as lacking identity prevents humanitarian organizations from delivering their services to the displaced populations.
  • Lack of identity can be both the consequence and and cause of forced displacement. People who have no identity can be considered illegal and risk being deported. At the same time, conflicts that lead to displacement can also result in loss of ID during travel.
  • The paper identifies different stakeholders and their interest in the case of identity and forced displacement, and finds that the biggest challenge for providing identity to refugees is the politics of identification and nationality.
  • Manby concludes that in order to address this challenge, there needs to be more effective coordination among governments, international organizations, and the private sector to come up with an alternative of providing identification and services to the displaced persons. She also argues that it is essential to ensure that national identification becomes a universal practice for states.

McClure, D. and Menchi, B. (2015). Challenges and the State of Play of Interoperability in Cash Transfer Programming. Geneva: UNHCR/World Vision International.

  • This report reviews the elements that contribute to the interoperability design for Cash Transfer Programming (CTP). The design framework offered here maps out these various features and also looks at the state of the problem and the state of play through a variety of use cases.
  • The study considers the current state of play and provides insights about the ways to address the multi-dimensionality of interoperability measures in increasingly complex ecosystems.     

NRC / International Human Rights Clinic (2016). Securing Status: Syrian refugees and the documentation of legal status, identity, and family relationships in Jordan.

  • This report examines Syrian refugees’ attempts to obtain identity cards and other forms of legally recognized documentation (mainly, Ministry of Interior Service Cards, or “new MoI cards”) in Jordan through the state’s Urban Verification Exercise (“UVE”). These MoI cards are significant because they allow Syrians to live outside of refugee camps and move freely about Jordan.
  • The text reviews the acquirement processes and the subsequent challenges and consequences that refugees face when unable to obtain documentation. Refugees can encounter issues ranging from lack of access to basic services to arrest, detention, forced relocation to camps and refoulement.  
  • Seventy-two Syrian refugee families in Jordan were interviewed in 2016 for this report and their experiences with obtaining MoI cards varied widely.

Office of Internal Oversight Services (2015). Audit of the operations in Jordan for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Report 2015/049. New York: UN.

  • This report documents the January 1, 2012 – March 31, 2014 audit of Jordanian operations, which is intended to ensure the effectiveness of the UNHCR Representation in the state.
  • The main goals of the Regional Response Plan for Syrian refugees included relieving the pressure on Jordanian services and resources while still maintaining protection for refugees.
  • The audit results concluded that the Representation was initially unsatisfactory, and the OIOS suggested several recommendations according to the two key controls which the Representation acknowledged. Those recommendations included:
    • Project management:
      • Revising standard operating procedure on cash based interventions
      • Providing training to staff involved in financial verification of partners supervise management
      • Establishing ways to ensure that appropriate criteria for payment of all types of costs to partners’ staff are included in partnership agreements
    • Regulatory framework:
      • Preparing annual need-based procurement plan and establishing adequate management oversight processes
      • Creating procedures for the assessment of renovation work in progress and issuing written change orders
      • Protecting data and ensuring timely consultation with the UNHCR Division of Financial and Administrative Management

UNHCR/WFP (2015). Joint Inspection of the Biometrics Identification System for Food Distribution in Kenya. Geneva: UNHCR/WFP.

  • This report outlines the partnership between the WFP and UNHCR in its effort to promote its biometric identification checking system to support food distribution in the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps in Kenya.
    • Both entities conducted a joint inspection mission in March 2015 and was considered an effective tool and a model for other country operations.
    • Still, 11 recommendations are proposed and responded to in this text to further improve the efficiency of the biometric system, including real-time evaluation of impact, need for automatic alerts, documentation of best practices, among others.
GovLab Blog

Open Data Resources from the GovLab

Saturday March 4, 2017 marks the 7th annual International Open Data Day — an event in which participants across the globe will “create local events that will use open data in their communities” with the idea of demonstrating its positive value. Over 322 events are currently planned across all 6 continents. This year’s event highlights four areas where open data initiatives can be particularly impactful: tracking money flows, the environment, human rights, and open data research. In the interest of sharing what we’ve learned about open data over the years, the GovLab compiled some of its open data research and projects into a compendium available here.

GovLab Blog

Launching –  A New Resource on Creating Public Value by Exchanging Data

See Press Release
Recent years have seen exponential growth in the amount of data being generated and stored around the world. There is increasing recognition that this data can play a key role in solving some of the most difficult public problems we face.
However, much of the potentially useful data is currently privately held and not available for public insights. Data in the form of web clicks, social “likes,” geo location and online purchases are typically tightly controlled, usually by entities in the private sector. Companies today generate an ever-growing stream of information from our proliferating sensors and devices. Increasingly, they—and various other actors—are asking if there is a way to make this data available for the public good. There is an ongoing search for new models of corporate responsibility in the digital era around data toward the creation of “data collaboratives”.
Screen Shot 2017-01-17 at 2.54.05 PM
Today, the GovLab is excited to launch a new resource for Data Collaboratives ( Data Collaboratives are an emerging form of public-private partnership in which participants from different sectors — including private companies, research institutions, and government agencies — exchange data to help solve public problems.
The resource results from different partnerships with UNICEF (focused on creating data collaboratives to improve children’s lives) and Omidyar Network (studying new ways to match (open) data demand and supply to increase impact).
Natalia Adler, a data, research and policy planning specialist and the UNICEF Data Collaboratives Project Lead notes, “At UNICEF, we’re dealing with the world’s most complex problems affecting children. Data Collaboratives offer an exciting opportunity to tap on previously inaccessible datasets and mobilize a wide range of data expertise to advance child rights around the world. It’s all about connecting the dots.”
To better understand the potential of these Collaboratives, the GovLab collected information on dozens of examples from across the world. These many and diverse initiatives clearly suggest the potential of Data Collaboratives to improve people’s lives when done responsibly. As Stefaan Verhulst, co-founder of the GovLab, puts it: “In the coming months and years, Data Collaboratives will be essential vehicles for harnessing the vast stores of privately held data toward the public good.”
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In particular, our research to date suggests that Data Collaboratives offer a number of potential benefits, including enhanced:

  • Situational Awareness and Response: For example, Orbital Insights and the World Bank are using satellite imagery to measure and track poverty. This technology can, in some instances, “be more accurate than U.S. census data.”
  • Public Service Design and Delivery: Global mapping company, Esri, and Waze’s Connected Citizen’s program are using crowdsourced traffic information to help governments design better transportation.
  • Impact Assessment and Evaluation: Nielsen and the World Food Program (WFP) have been using data collected via mobile phone surveys to better monitor food insecurity in order to advise the WFP’s resource allocations.

Despite increased awareness about these potential benefits, there exists little analysis of what works and why, and only a provisional understanding of how, precisely, data can be shared and used to enhance the public good.
Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 4.49.12 PM seeks to address these shortcomings and spur greater experimentation in the field. It explores potential and realized societal benefits, motivations and incentives to encourage participation, as well as risks and potential harms related to cross-sector data sharing. The site includes a number of interactive features, including:
Data Collaboratives Explorer
Experiments with Data Collaboratives are emerging around the world. The Data Collaboratives Explorer provides dozens of examples of cases where public value was created by exchanging data, in sectors like health, crisis response, environment and infrastructure. Users can also submit new Data Collaboratives that we will evaluate and add to the Explorer.
Designing a Data Collaborative
How can institutions establish Data Collaboratives and unlock previously inaccessible data to help solve public problems? Our Data Collaboratives Guide outlines Eight Steps for designing and implementing a Data Collaborative, complete with examples, enablers and resources to improve outcomes.
Data Responsibility Framework
Our research indicates that, along with clear benefits, Data Collaboratives do also introduce certain risks, notably to privacy and security. Toward that end we are also developing a data responsibility decision tree leveraging the work we have done prior toward establishing a Data Responsibility Framework.
The site also includes a number of additional resources, including Selected Readings, a listing relevant events and much more. We welcome your feedback and suggestions. To learn more about the GovLab’s work on Data Collaboratives, or to explore a possible collaboration, please contact Stefaan Verhulst at
To learn more about the GovLab’s work on Data Collaboratives, or to explore a possible collaboration, please contact Stefaan Verhulst at

GovLab Blog

Compilation of Predictions for 2017

Curated by Robert Montano, Prianka Srinivasan, Stefaan Verhulst and Andrew Young
It’s the season of predictions. As we usher in the new year, what will 2017 or 2070 be like? In our on-going attempt to identify the signal in the noise, we reviewed many annual forecasts and selected some of the most relevant to governance innovation.
With much of the world in a state of flux, and with many early wins in technology-driven governance innovation now facing questions regarding their continued existence, predictions for 2017 span the spectrum from optimism that innovation will continue to improve people’s lives to pessimism regarding the many challenges 2017 is likely to bring. Below is a sample of eight predictions – From precision medicine improving health outcomes to greater attention being focused on online ‘filter bubbles’ to cybersecurity concerns negatively impacting digital services – from a wide variety of sources that we here at the GovLab feel will most impact our lives in 2017.
Did we miss anything? Share additional predictions for 2017 with us at!
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Political Organization Will Continue Online, But Behind Closed Doors

Natalie Andrews at The Wall Street Journal: “Organization will take place online in secret. This was seen just before the election with the pro-Clinton group Pantsuit Nation, a secret Facebook group that grew to 3.96 million members. Post-election the group has raised money for progressive causes and branched out to create local chapters. Supporters of Mr. Trump also had several groups online, where they could be free of heated debate during the election. As activists prepare for a fight over health care and immigration, much of the organization will be done online in groups where members can use the secret status to organize, fundraise, and be free from scrutiny that members face in public.”
Wall Street Journal: “Five Predictions for Political Tech and Social Media in 2017

Increasing Our Understanding of Filter Bubbles

Mary L. Gray at Microsoft: “Social scientists and computer scientists will join together to develop new methods that map and measure cultural, economic and political ‘filter bubbles’ — online echo chambers of our friends’ news and information — and unpack how they impact people’s everyday ‘offline’ lives.”
Microsoft Corporate Blogs: “17 for ’17: Microsoft researchers on what to expect in 2017 and 2027

Digital Social Movements for Health Care

Annie Finnis, Halima Khan, Jacqueline Del Castillo, and Lydia Nicholas at Nesta: “In 2017, we will see even more people standing up, speaking out and seeking change in the health and care issues that matter to them and their loved ones. And they will do so in social movements that are ‘next generation’ in their use of digital technology to mobilise and the issues they address.”
Nesta: “Next generation social movements for health“; See also: 10 predictions for 2017

Blossoming of Precision Medicine

The Economist’s World in 2017: “DNA tests such as Oncotype DX and MammaPrint are among the advances which will help doctors pick treatments. A recent trial found that in one in five patients with advanced cancer, DNA tests could identify therapies that slowed down their tumours. Similarly it now looks likely that genetic testing will help identify those with advanced prostate cancer whose disease is caused by mutations in DNA-repair genes, in which case a different kind of drug could be called for. Personalised medicine also looks promising in deciding who might benefit from some of the powerful but expensive new immuno-oncology drugs, which seem to work only in a subset of patients.”
The Economist’s World in 2017: “Medicine gets personal“; See also: The World in 2017

Everyone as a Hospital

PSFK’s Forecast 2020: “As personal data collection becomes more precise, consumers will be able to manage initial diagnoses and treatment for themselves or others––deferring to specialists when needed and reducing the overall burden on healthcare systems.”
PSFK: “Forecast 2020: How Technology Is Empowering A New Age Of Digital Activists

Rise of Benevolent Use of Drones

Fast Company Design: “Rwanda is building the world’s first drone airport to provide medicine that can be quickly flown to those who need it. Rather than wait months for roads to be built, drones can quickly provide critical support to people living outside of urban areas. This is an example of a wider movement that is happening globally in developing and developed countries: drones for good…The definition of a drone is “unmanned aircraft,” but behind the unmanned aircraft is a person driving the intent and potential of what the aircraft can do for people in need. And this year we’ll see more folks begin to push this potential.”

Fast Company Design: “12 Tech Trends That Will Shape Our Lives In 2017

Empowering Citizens Through Access to Their Own Data

Eddie Copeland at Nesta: “2017 will see the acceleration of efforts to… [empower] users of online services to control access to their own data. Instead of submitting their personal information to online service providers, blockchain-based personal data stores will allow people to own and maintain their own data, granting and rescinding access and enabling it to be used, shared or deleted as they see fit.”
Nesta: Blockchain powers a personal data revolution“; See also: 10 predictions for 2017

Concerns over Cybersecurity will Slow Growth of Digital Service Industry

Rich Parrish at NextGov: “Some federal leaders will quickly implement new security measures for existing digital services without taking the time for input from digital experience designers. These interactions will get worse as agencies roll out identity verification procedures that are needlessly confusing and inconvenient. Leaders will also go slower than necessary on the development of new digital services because they fear opening new vulnerabilities.”
Nextgov Tech Insider Blog: “Customer-centric Government won’t be great again in 2017, and other government predictions