Tuesday, October 21, 2014
6

Data and Development

WASHINGTON, DC – Since the turn of the century, the international development community has rallied behind the Millennium Development Goals, which set specific targets in eight key areas, including poverty, child mortality, and disease, to be achieved by 2015. In formulating the post-2015 development agenda, measuring the MDGs’ successes – and identifying where progress has lagged – is critically important. And that demands more and better data.

To be sure, international institutions and many developing countries have invested significantly in improving data collection to track better their performance against MDG targets. In 2003, only four countries had two data points for 16 or more of the 22 principal MDG indicators; by last year, that figure had soared to 118 countries.

But development data remain a scarce resource in the developing world. Given their value in measuring – and propelling – social and economic progress, this shortage must be addressed urgently. A catalyst is needed to expand the production and use of development data. With this in mind, the high-level panel on the post-2015 development agenda is right to call for a global “data revolution.”

The meteoric rise of digital technologies has changed the global landscape since 2000, when the MDGs were launched. Remote sensing, information gathered from online activity, and crowd-sourced data from mobile phones can complement traditional methods of gathering statistics.

This technology-driven shift in the way people create, curate, share, and apply data should be reflected in development efforts for two reasons. First, policymakers are eager to attain more up-to-date data that can guide their efforts. Second, these data can also help drive innovation and civic engagement, by enabling the development of new and more effective goods and services.

However, there is a caveat. The size and complexity of these datasets require specialized analytical skills (which remain in short supply), as well as more research and experimentation.

Increasing the quantity, quality, availability, and usability of data for development requires addressing the market failures that lead to gaps in data use and coverage in developing countries. This means that as technology, data, and data users and providers make rapid advances, cooperation among diverse actors – governments, national statistics offices, donor agencies, global and local NGOs, academic and research institutions, the private sector and others – will be needed.

In this spirit of cooperation, the major multilateral development institutions – the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Islamic Development Bank, the United Nations, and the World Bank – have already begun to strengthen their joint efforts in producing and sharing development data. And the effort has already borne fruit.

But there is much more to be done. Through new forms of collaboration, developing-country statistical agencies should aim to improve data coverage and quality, while leveraging technology to make data easier to manage, use, and access.

More (and more reliable) data could also improve decision-making by helping policymakers to understand specific social, economic, and environmental issues. Better gender statistics could provide a more detailed understanding of women’s access to justice, education, and finance; improved measures of poverty and inequality could reveal how the benefits of economic growth are distributed; and natural capital accounting could uncover the value of resource endowments, thereby helping to ensure that they are used in a rational and sustainable manner.

Obviously, data related to issues that directly affect the wellbeing of people and the planet are essential for effective policymaking. Making such data open and accessible should be viewed as a basic condition of ensuring people’s ability to hold governments accountable and thus participate in decisions that affect their lives. The more resources that are devoted to achieving this goal, the more effective the post-2015 development agenda will be.

Read more from our "Visionary Voices" series

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  1. CommentedEdward Ponderer

    The reason for the shortage on analytic ability in the matter is that the matter is impossible--its a violation of (algorithmic) information theory. There exists an intrinsic complexity in the dynamic data that can not be reduced for use in control by a limited cadre of individuals, no more than the homeostasis of one's body can be simplified to be masterminded by a few cells.

    Computers and general mathematical reduction of information depend upon the existence of symmetries. In other words, the data was never complex to start with, it merely was not looked at the right way. For example, groves of orange trees may seem laid out in a complex or random manner--but this is only till you find out the right angle to look down them and see the rows.

    The case here is more like a 4-year old "doctor" with all the equipment in the world available to him, but require the information explained in a manner simplifying the human body to a stick figure. Is there any doubt that this child will kill his patients.

    No, it is not just the gathering of data from the crowd mind, but it is the analysis and control by the crowd mind that is required as well. Individually, the members of that crowd, like simple PC's on the Internet, are not as clever and well-trained as the souped up stand-alone decision-makers. But as to that "Internet" as a whole, it is as far above the policy makers as Albert Einstein is above a cocker spaniel.

  2. CommentedEdward Ponderer

    The reason for the shortage on analytic ability in the matter is that the matter is impossible--its a violation of (algorithmic) information theory. There exists an intrinsic complexity in the dynamic data that can not be reduced for use in control by a limited cadre of individuals, no more than the homeostasis of one's body can be simplified to be masterminded by a few cells.

    Computers and general mathematical reduction of information depend upon the existence of symmetries. In other words, the data was never complex to start with, it merely was not looked at the right way. For example, groves of orange trees may seem laid out in a complex or random manner--but this is only till you find out the right angle to look down them and see the rows.

    The case here is more like a 4-year old "doctor" with all the equipment in the world available to him, but require the information explained in a manner simplifying the human body to a stick figure. Is there any doubt that this child will kill his patients.

    No, it is not just the gathering of data from the crowd mind, but it is the analysis and control by the crowd mind that is required as well. Individually, the members of that crowd, like simple PC's on the Internet, are not as clever and well-trained as the souped up stand-alone decision-makers. But as to that "Internet" as a whole, it is as far above the policy makers as Albert Einstein is above a cocker spaniel.

  3. CommentedEdward Ponderer

    The reason for the shortage on analytic ability in the matter is that the matter is impossible--its a violation of (algorithmic) information theory. There exists an intrinsic complexity in the dynamic data that can not be reduced for use in control by a limited cadre of individuals, no more than the homeostasis of one's body can be simplified to be masterminded by a few cells.

    Computers and general mathematical reduction of information depend upon the existence of symmetries. In other words, the data was never complex to start with, it merely was not looked at the right way. For example, groves of orange trees may seem laid out in a complex or random manner--but this is only till you find out the right angle to look down them and see the rows.

    The case here is more like a 4-year old "doctor" with all the equipment in the world available to him, but require the information explained in a manner simplifying the human body to a stick figure. Is there any doubt that this child will kill his patients.

    No, it is not just the gathering of data from the crowd mind, but it is the analysis and control by the crowd mind that is required as well. Individually, the members of that crowd, like simple PC's on the Internet, are not as clever and well-trained as the souped up stand-alone decision-makers. But as to that "Internet" as a whole, it is as far above the policy makers as Albert Einstein is above a cocker spaniel.

  4. CommentedEdward Ponderer

    The reason for the shortage on analytic ability in the matter is that the matter is impossible--its a violation of (algorithmic) information theory. There exists an intrinsic complexity in the dynamic data that can not be reduced for use in control by a limited cadre of individuals, no more than the homeostasis of one's body can be simplified to be masterminded by a few cells.

    Computers and general mathematical reduction of information depend upon the existence of symmetries. In other words, the data was never complex to start with, it merely was not looked at the right way. For example, groves of orange trees may seem laid out in a complex or random manner--but this is only till you find out the right angle to look down them and see the rows.

    The case here is more like a 4-year old "doctor" with all the equipment in the world available to him, but require the information explained in a manner simplifying the human body to a stick figure. Is there any doubt that this child will kill his patients.

    No, it is not just the gathering of data from the crowd mind, but it is the analysis and control by the crowd mind that is required as well. Individually, the members of that crowd, like simple PC's on the Internet, are not as clever and well-trained as the souped up stand-alone decision-makers. But as to that "Internet" as a whole, it is as far above the policy makers as Albert Einstein is above a cocker spaniel.

  5. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    The initiative is very good, and only such globally mutual processes can help us in a global, integral world.
    But when we talk about data, measurements, goals it is very important that we know and understand the coordinates of the system we exist in.
    And at the moment our whole paradigm is existing in "thin air", in an artificial, "made-up" human system, where we invented laws, principles, sub-systems based on the presumption that humanity exists outside, above the vast natural system we evolved from.
    We have no chance of collecting the "right data", to process it the necessary accurate way and act on it as long as we are not adapted back into the "real world", inside the laws and principles of the natural system we still exist within.
    The only way of adapting to the system is by reaching 'equivalence of form" with it, in other words tuning our global, integral human system to the same "frequency", qualities, characteristics the natural system is based on.
    And the natural system is based on a dynamic, general balance, homoeostasis that allows the maintenance of life and positive development.
    As we can observe within our own biological bodies this homoeostasis requires a complete, mutually complementing cooperation in between the cells, organs, where each and every particle primarily operates for the sake of the whole, and then receiving everything for their necessities.
    Until the global human society is not organized this way we will miss our targets as we cannot even set the right targets with our present, subjective, self-calculating mind and tools.
    One of the starting point in data collection, data organization and data digesting is the "Wisdom of the crowd", (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisdom_of_the_crowd), that could already elevate us above our present mindset and paradigm, providing a much more accurate perception of reality.
    We have to get used to discussing and solving problems from within equal, mutual "circles" where the individual "wisdom" is replaced by a mutual one.
    Unless we aim ourselves the right way from the very beginning, the final goal being present in the initial thought, it is better if we sit and do nothing.

      CommentedEdward Ponderer

      The reason for the shortage on analytic ability in the matter is that the matter is impossible--its a violation of (algorithmic) information theory. There exists an intrinsic complexity in the dynamic data that can not be reduced for use in control by a limited cadre of individuals, no more than the homeostasis of one's body can be simplified to be masterminded by a few cells.

      Computers and general mathematical reduction of information depend upon the existence of symmetries. In other words, the data was never complex to start with, it merely was not looked at the right way. For example, groves of orange trees may seem laid out in a complex or random manner--but this is only till you find out the right angle to look down them and see the rows.

      The case here is more like a 4-year old "doctor" with all the equipment in the world available to him, but require the information explained in a manner simplifying the human body to a stick figure. Is there any doubt that this child will kill his patients.

      No, it is not just the gathering of data from the crowd mind, but it is the analysis and control by the crowd mind that is required as well. Individually, the members of that crowd, like simple PC's on the Internet, are not as clever and well-trained as the souped up stand-alone decision-makers. But as to that "Internet" as a whole, it is as far above the policy makers as Albert Einstein is above a cocker spaniel.

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