Avoiding Data Graveyards

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Avoiding Data Graveyards: Insights from Data Producers & Users in Three Countries

Citation

Custer, S. and T. Sethi (Eds.) (2017) Avoiding Data Graveyards: Insights from Data Producers and Users in Three Countries. Williamsburg, VA: AidData at the College of William & Mary.

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Government, development partner, and civil society leaders make decisions every day about how to allocate, monitor and evaluate development assistance. Policymakers and practitioners can theoretically draw from more data sources in a variety of formats than ever before to inform these decisions, but will they choose to do so? Those who collect data and produce evidence are often far removed from those who ultimately influence and make decisions. Technocratic ideals of evidence-informed policymaking and data-driven decision-making are easily undercut by individual prerogatives, organizational imperatives, and ecosystem-wide blind spots.

In 2016, researchers from the AidData Center for Development Policy interviewed nearly 200 decision-makers and those that advise them in Honduras, Timor-Leste, and Senegal. Central government officials, development partner representatives based in country, and leaders of civil society organizations (CSOs) shared their experiences in producing and using data to target development projects, monitor progress, and evaluate results.

Specifically, the report answers three questions:

  • Who produces development data and statistics, for what purposes and for whom?
  • What are the the technical and political constraints for decision-makers to use development data in their work?
  • What can funders and producers do differently to encourage use of data and evidence in decision-making?

Using a theory of change, we identify nine barriers to the use of data and corresponding operating principles for funders and producers to make demand-driven investments in the next generation of development data and statistics.