Wrap-up: April 2014 Discussion
Many thanks for everyone who commented on What does the Post-2015 ‘Data Revolution’ Mean for Human Rights Monitoring? There were some interesting examples shared about how data can be used to assess human rights compliance, such as Maternal Mortality Observatory in Mexico and the Visualizing Rights factsheet on Egypt. A number of really interesting themes came out of the discussion, as summarized below.
Many comments related to the process of collecting, analyzing and disseminating data. Some raised concerns such as potential infringements of the right to privacy and the risk that it becomes an elitist form of knowledge production, exacerbating the digital divide and marginalizing affected communities. Others advocated for the 'democratization of data', highlighting how important it is to ensure the participation of rights holders, either as leaders in localized data-driven initiatives or as experiential experts, discussing, validating and auditing data produced by official statistical agencies or analyzed through big data initiatives. There seemed to be some interest in the proposal of establishing 'Open Data Ombudsmen' or expanding the role of existing obmuds-institutions to oversee public data.
There was also a lot of consensus that increasing amounts of data shouldn't be an end to itself. More data, alone, will not lead to real transformation in people’s living conditions. Lack of progress on maternal mortality, for example, is not due to lack of data about it. For this reason, infomediaries are needed to translate data into information, information into evidence, and evidence into action. There was a sense that while human rights activists and advocates could be effective infomediaries, we are still figuring out what our role should be and how to become more data savvy—either through skill development (i.e. improving data literacy) or multidisciplinary partnerships (e.g. collaborating data journalists).
Another question that came up was where best to channel our efforts to push for better data provision? Should the focus be on improving national statistical agencies? Or should it be supporting civil society monitoring? One suggestion was that by raising our voices in the open data agenda more actively, we could deploy human rights to increase demands for attributable data and shine a light on what data is not being made public and why.