Devastating vs democratizing data: How a global indicator can engage communities and be locally led

We are moving ever further into the realm of possibility afforded by advanced data analytics and experimental methodologies, such that answers to questions posed by wicked problems* are tantalizingly close. This is revolutionizing the development sector and helping us to realize our ethical obligation to use tools and strategies that are grounded in something other than intuition or highly personal experience. However, those impacted are not always included in the system that develops and utilizes data and evidence, which can contribute to a new form of inequality. [* A ‘wicked’ problem is one that is so complex that it has no single solution and cannot ever be fully resolved, as a resolution may lead to or reveal a new problem in another area.]

With advances in data access and analytics, we can answer increasingly complex questions. But that process left unregulated creates a power imbalance: Who gets to determine what questions we ask? Who has the resources to answer them? Who benefits from those answers? Who gets to define what is a rigorous answer? Who has the skills to use and understand it, and who does not? Those we serve rarely get to pick the questions, determine what is relevant, or have access to the advanced training necessary to make sense of it all.

Read the full article on USAID Learning Lab.