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Category Archives: International development

August 31, 2017

The Challenge of Upholding Data Privacy in Digital Development

By | Blog, Global development, ICT4D, International development, Principles for Digital Development

Across the global development community, non-profits, government agencies, and humanitarian response organizations are using data to catalyze innovation through increasing mobile access, scaling up field operations and promoting inclusive decisions between implementers and beneficiaries.

Creative CommonsWhile organizations may act with best intentions, and in doing so, embrace digitization and adopt advanced analytics to improve these efforts, issues of privacy, security and ownership of such data can be inconsistently addressed. Promoting responsible use of data and implementing data protection policies that can be rapidly adopted in the field are not being prioritized by enough practitioners.

As one example, a study by The Centre for Internet & Society following the international response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa called attention to the unregulated use of call detail records (CDRs) by response organizations and how some actors did not seek informed consent before collecting and using personal identifiable information (PII) to track how Ebola was moving throughout the region.

Whether organizations collect sensitive information from beneficiaries or manage large datasets from various countries, the need to adopt data privacy best practices and policy is paramount.

Despite the challenges, there are clear best practices that organizations can adopt—either at the institutional level or in the field—to ensure data is protected.  Even with the challenges that the Centre for Internet & Society found during the Ebola outbreak, there were important good practices from that response, noted in this USAID report, that should inform future crisis response efforts. For example, during the outbreak, data-enabled responders were continually updating emergency response centers with proper activity reports, which enhanced coordination of efforts and ensured that the location of Ebola outbreaks was recorded properly.

 Understand the Data Lifecycle

Field staff need to understand how the data that they collect is managed by their organization or implementing partners from inception to close-out of their program. In practice, organizations should have a clear framework in place that tracks how data flows in and out of their programs to mitigate risk, responsibly collect data, provide feedback to program partners and ultimately dispose or properly archive collected data.

Focused data collection protocols—including data minimization policies—decrease the chance that sensitive data is misused and ensures that such data can be properly and rapidly disposed of when the program concludes. The Electronic Cash Transfer Learning Action Network—convened by Mercy Corps and MasterCard—practices data minimization to reduce the risk of data being misused and decrease the cost of data collection in the field.

Build Awareness, Educate, then Implement

Upholding data privacy in the field can seem expensive in time and effort, but there are tools available for practitioners to improve data privacy activities. Organizations need to first build awareness of the data privacy challenge at-large, educate their staff on strategies to address it and finally implement privacy guidelines into their field programs.

Practically, organizations actively using the Principles for Digital Development can join upcoming workshops, disseminate toolkits and follow how-to guides outlined in the principles to Be Data Driven and Address Privacy & Security.

The Responsible Data Management (RDM) partnership between Oxfam and The Engine Room realized the translation from awareness to practice. RDM includes briefings, leaflets, and an interactive training package—complete with card games—that field officers can use to educate their operations staff about data responsibility. Staffers work through different real-world dilemmas and learn where programs may have to deal with sensitive information and how they can do so in an ethical and responsible fashion.

Institutionalize Data Responsibility

Executive officers and donors should enact policies that institutionalize data protection and responsible use throughout their respective operations. Such policies can engender a greater sense of technical literacy and a culture of data responsibility in addressing the data privacy challenge.

In fact, certain organizations—including World Vision International and Catholic Relief Services—have formed information security offices and adopted privacy policies across their ICT programs, in addition to calling on donors and other partners to develop and implement stringent privacy safeguards in this regard.

On the Horizon

Going forward, staff members should continue to tap into expertise that already exists through such organizations as Global Pulse—a UN-led data initiative—or The Responsible Data Forum to improve their data privacy practices and keep the discussion going.

Non-profit organizations and government agencies also need to consider that a majority of existing data is largely-owned by private-sector telecommunications and network infrastructure companies. Mobile network operators will be core partners for NGOs and government development agencies for future digital development programs.

Addressing data privacy in digital development is crucial if implementers want to continue to use data for good and improve their programs. Collaboration on building a data privacy consensus between donors, implementers and conveners can engender sustainable policies and effective resilience for data responsibility, protection and privacy.

Mitch Hulse was a fellow at the Digital Impact Alliance during the summer of 2017. During his fellowship, Mitch focused on building out DIAL’s literacy on data privacy—specifically how the ICT community can leverage data responsibly and sustainably with both private-sector and public partners. He is currently completing his Masters of Public Policy degree at the University of British Columbia.



July 18, 2017

The Future of ICT for Agriculture

By | Blog, Global development, ICT4D, International development, Sustainable Development Goals

At the recent ICTforAg 2017 conference, supported by Abt Associates, DAI and FHI 360, there was a lot of food for thought around how new innovations can empower smallholder farmers, and the communities that support them, through information and communication technologies (ICT). Throughout the day of keynotes, lightning talks and group breakouts, here are some of my key takeaways on how we continue to advance digital technology to improve the agriculture sector globally:

  • Proactive Guidelines for Responsible Data Management in the ICT4Ag sector. Historically, ICTforAg and broadly ICT4D guidelines tend to be reactive, but Ana Maria Cuenca of FHI 360 and Linda Raftree of Kurante are looking to change this by developing guidelines for USAID funded programs responsible for data management. They shared three critical guidelines of responsible data management during the Responsible Data Practices for Digital Development breakout session: 1) quality data for decision making, 2) privacy rights and data security for vulnerable people and 3) transparency and accountability.
  • Mobile Money. As Chrissy Martin from USAID showed a map of all the places in DC that accept bitcoin as a currency, she surveyed the 300-person room to understand who would be happy if their employer switched to paying their salaries in bitcoin. About three people raised their hands. It was an interesting thought exercise gave attendees perspective to what a smallholder farmer may feel when mobile money is forced upon them. To me it highlighted the importance of being customer first when implementing any sort of digital service.
  • Collecting data and incorporating it into programmatic strategy was discussed by the closing session speaker Julius Adewopo from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture. He referenced a recent survey of agro-dealers across four states in northern Nigeria which aimed to exhaustively survey and map all existing agro-dealers who sell at least two types of maize varieties. Through crowdsourcing information, the survey reached 1,400 agro-dealers within approximately six days (a reach unattainable even within six months if they had relied on their own personnel and resources). They found that 98% of the agro-dealers were male and 60% use smartphones; which is critical data for programmatic partners to have as they implement value-chain interventions and learn how to best work with smallholder farmers, who are typically female.

Partnering with Dalberg Data Insights on Food Security Use Case

The ICT4Ag conference came at a perfect time given the recent appetite of DIAL’s D4D team to leverage data in the agriculture sector. DIAL is pleased to announce that we are partnering with Dalberg Data Insights to implement an on-the-ground use case around using mobile and digital data to better predict food crises. We are piloting this work first in Uganda, a developing country that has embraced digital technologies and is also struggling with food security as more refugees cross into its borders.

Dalberg Data Insights

Graphic by Dalberg. Used with Permission.

For this pilot, we combine remote sensing and mobile phone data to proactively identify any change in food security at a local level.

  • On the supply side, this includes prediction of agricultural yield with high geographical granularity based on satellite imagery.
  • On the demand side, we involve local topical experts to include measures of mobility derived from telecom data to assess access to markets, as well as detection of behavioral changes, also derived from telecom data that are indicative of a food security situation, as shown in past research.

Thus far, food security research has focused on the logistics of getting food to people, not using data to predict supply/demand and ultimately fend off food crises. Thanks to the research of GPSDD and UN Global Pulse, we’re now able to mobilize around big data and food security, whereas before, the importance of utilizing real-time data would have been an afterthought. We are at a point where the ongoing research over the past two years has built a base and the level of maturity with local telecom operators finally exists to conduct this research. There is also much more to learn about how to scale these efforts.

We will work with end users in-country to develop tools and observe directly what they need/don’t need to see what makes sense and delivers the best results. We’re not doing this research in a lab or at a university, we are focused on trying to positively impact people directly.

Take a young single mother living in Uganda. Instead of waiting until she suffers from malnutrition or starvation, we could proactively predict when there will be a lack of food and prevent it. Our hope is that this young single mother will benefit without even knowing something is going on, she will just continue to have food flowing into the nearby market.

Danielle Dhillon joined the Digital Impact Alliance in March 2017 as Senior Program Analyst, Data for Development. In this role, she works to demonstrate the value of a viable Data for Development (D4D) ecosystem for driving effective learning and decision-making across development programs, the public sector and the private sector.



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