by Eric Swanson
Two questions — “What is the data revolution?” and “How is it affecting people’s lives?” — lead to many more questions. The world is generating data at an ever increasing rate. What is it good for? Who benefits? Will poor countries be left out? New technologies enable faster analysis and dissemination of data. Is the data revolution just about technology? What about Big Data? And Open Data? And what are the risks?
These questions are not about the data revolution in abstract. The data revolution is very real and it is moving quickly. So what will the data revolution do to help countries achieve their Sustainable Development Goals? What needs to be done to make the data revolution into a development data revolution?
All of these questions and more are in the air at every gathering of government officials, aid organizations, NGOs, development specialists, and not least, statisticians. They are certainly part of the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa. And the question to be answered there and going forward is whether donors and their developing country partners will recognize the importance of funding the statistical programs needed to monitor the SDGs?
For each of these questions there have been many answers offered. To bring them together, Open Data Watch has compiled a list of 20 questions and answers as The Data Revolution FAQs. The questions and answers look at the data revolution from many angles: national governments, international organizations, NGOs and CSOs, the private sector, and citizens in general. Each one has a different role to play in making the data revolution happen for the benefit of all.
Everyone who advocates for more data, better data, open data, will sooner or later face the big question: What good are all these data? Why should governments invest in data? Who cares? It is hard to measure the value of a public good since no one pays for it. But there are efforts underway to document the applications of data and new technologies that have made people’s lives better. Open Data Watch has just published a collection of well-researched success stories (and one instructive failure). You can read and download them at Data Impacts. In its annual report UN Global Pulse includes case studies from its project that illustrate applications of big data to development as part of its Global Pulse Project Series. There will be more to come. If you know of good examples of data in action, please send them to us.
And if you have more questions or a better answer, you can comment on this blog or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.