We’re excited to be launching our series of four research briefs on humanitarian data and data transparency. Our research, commissioned by the Grand Bargain Transparency Workstream, and conducted in partnership with Ground Truth Solutions, explores the information needs and challenges of on the ground humanitarian actors in protracted emergencies using Iraq and Bangladesh as case studies. We believe that the findings can provide insights for the Transparency Workstream, but also especially for the broader humanitarian data community.
The overall message from the four research briefs is as follows: there is substantial opportunity to re-calibrate our collective humanitarian data management efforts as well as transparency initiatives to incorporate the data needs and challenges of frontline humanitarian actors. This will require a re-balancing of effort, moving beyond a focus at the HQ level, and encouraging engagement around data at the field level.
Specifically, the research has highlighted that data quality challenges, a lack of data governance and leadership at the field level, and limited data use capacity risk undermining humanitarian assistance efforts. While some good work is already being done to encourage better data use in humanitarian settings, work still remains to improve overall quality and accessibility for all those involved in a response.
Henry Lewis, Humanitarian Project Manager at Publish What You Fund, said:
“The four research briefs cover a broad range of data and transparency topics. What soon became apparent is the extent to which the data needs and challenges of frontline users are context specific. While there are certain requirements such as the need for timely and validated data, or data-use capacity building, there was a clear demand amongst stakeholders to engage around the data in their response, to agree locally on data protocols and definitions. These findings will help the humanitarian community to better understand this “localisation” of data management and of transparency initiatives.”
As we launch these reports, 167.6 million people are affected by crisis and in need of humanitarian assistance, up from the previous year, and the highest figure in decades according to UN OCHA. The 2020 humanitarian needs overview calls for US$28.8 billion in funding to help address the needs of these affected people. Data from the field plays a crucial part in designing programmes and assisting decision-makers on where to focus assistance. As such, we are calling on all Grand Bargain signatories as well as the wider humanitarian sector, internationally and nationally, to be more transparent and to have a more concerted effort towards improving the quality, availability, and use of data in crisis settings to help better deliver services directly to these affected populations.
At Publish What You Fund, we are in contact with the Grand Bargain Transparency Workstream and other relevant organisations to see how some of the respective recommendations of the research can be taken forward in the next 12 months and potentially beyond.
Our key findings
Our four research briefs each explore key issues facing front line responders accessing and using timely, comprehensive, and comparable data they require to make operational, programmatic, and financial decisions. Our key findings are:
- Research Brief 1: Publication of humanitarian funding data: The quality and timeliness of funding data undermines confidence and thus inhibits use by the actors (mostly coordinators) who would benefit from this data. Across the board, awareness of International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) data is low, but some non-financial data may be useful to some actors.
- Research Brief 2: Data collection, analysis and use in protracted humanitarian crises: Poor data governance on the ground and a lack of “data leadership” in-country are barriers to improving collection, analysis, and quality of data. A lack of information management capacity, capabilities, and mandate serves to undermine data-sharing practices, which in turn increases the risk of sensitive data being shared and negatively impacts trust between organisations.
- Research Brief 3: The use, challenges and opportunities associated with digital platforms: The number and usability of existing platforms is sufficient for actors to access data. However, they desire the ability to download raw data, and want greater transparency regarding data collection methodologies in order to more accurately determine legitimacy and value of the data. Inconsistency in reporting and underlying data quality issues inhibit data use.
- Research Brief 4: Data use capacity in protracted humanitarian crises: Capacity and resource gaps at the field level act as barriers to improving data quality and information exchange. There needs to be an increase in funding dedicated to data use expertise and training, particularly in local NGOs, and a more concerted and focused effort from donors, UN agencies, and INGOs to address the structural issues currently acting as barriers to better data use capacity.
Beyond the Grand Bargain work on transparency – creating a humanitarian data ecosystem
“The humanitarian response plan is built on data, so if your data is wrong, the response will be wrong.” Civil society leader, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
This research provided valuable insights on data and data management, going beyond the transparency work of the Grand Bargain. It clearly illustrates that data has a significant value, and a cost. We encourage Grand Bargain signatories and the wider humanitarian sector to ensure a common understanding of both the inherent and less tangible value that responsible data plays in fuelling effective response. Data provides a foundation on which the humanitarian system makes decisions. Therefore, the aim should be to create a humanitarian data environment where all those involved in a response, including the beneficiaries themselves, have access to the data they need, when they need it.
The humanitarian sector is faced with an extraordinary opportunity. Fifty years since the dawn of the digital revolution we find ourselves with a huge quantity of data and the number of sources have multiplied to meet the variety of needs found in crises contexts. There remains enormous potential for more efficient, increasingly equitable and ethical approaches to coordination, collection, analysis, sharing, and use of data to drive humanitarian action through better field implementation and data governance. The potential benefits are numerous – better targeting of need, reduced cost, increased trust and goodwill between actors, minimised duplication, and more informed long-term planning to assist early recovery and resilience activities.
Join our discussions
If you would like to hear more about our research, we will be holding two webinars to discuss our findings. The webinars are open to anyone with an interest in transparency, humanitarian action, and open data. To join, please register using one the links below:
- Wednesday 8th July from 10am – 11am BST. To register your attendance, click here.
- Thursday 9th July from 3pm – 4pm BST. To register your attendance, click here.