This Week: Open Data is an Essential Ingredient for Better Development Research
UNICEF is making data a priority by re-launching the “UNICEF Child Info” department as “UNICEF Data” and actively promoting the use and collection of data to guide development. While their data is not subnational, it is comprehensive and expansive in its indicators. UNICEF’s mission calls for the use of the power of statistics and data to tell a story about the quality of life for children around the world. The connection between improving data and improving lives is a critical one that, while sometimes overshadowed by technical discussions on providing better data, is at the core of open data and the data transparency initiatives. By using evidence to anchor their decision-making, the UNICEF Data initiative hopes to craft and inspire better ways of caring for and empowering children across the globe.
The World Bank’s Indonesia Data for Policy and Economics Research, INDO-DAPOER, is a game changer for academics looking to understand development at the province and district level. Similar to UNICEF’s data, INDO-DAPOER focuses on using evidence to inform policy. The lack of data can be a serious constraint for researchers looking to quantitatively delve into subnational development patterns. Most data is available at the country-wide, aggregate level, and, while this is useful for cross-national comparisons, it does not work for research questions evaluating district-level information. INDO-DAPOER has over 200 fiscal, economic, social demographic, and infrastructure characteristic indicators at both district and provincial levels. We are thrilled to see granular data published in an accessible format and look forward to seeing the research it produces.
The African Economic Research Consortium’s (AERC) latest journal published articles focusing on conducting gender-related economic research. One article by Cheryll Doss focused on the need for sex-disaggregated data collection, even for research that does not explicitly delve into gender-related questions. Data on assets and ownership is typically collected at the household level, leading to a scarcity of information on what women own individually or jointly. However, more revealing patterns emerge if questions about ownership are answered individually. Improved data on the gender gaps in asset ownership – whether the assets are land, agricultural equipment, savings, computers, etc. – allows policymakers and development practitioners to understand how policies or projects might affect men and women differently and develop interventions that address the root causes of economic vulnerability. Doss includes research questions that can be answered with sex-disaggregated data, such as whether more African women entering the workforce will lead to increases in their asset ownership.
Granular data, whether it is on economic indicators or development projects, leads to a better understanding by improving accuracy at smaller units of analysis. With the subnational data available through these initiatives, researchers can begin to address their questions with an in-depth, microsocopic view. We look forward to the research that develops as a result of these tools.
Althea Lyness is the Special Assistant to AidData's Co-Executive Director based at the College of William & Mary.