People at the heart of Information Management: promoting responsible and inclusive practices
Why this choice of main theme?
In the past decade or two, the use of digital solutions to improve the efficiency, accountability and quality of humanitarian and development projects has increased exponentially. Being data-driven has also become a new trend associated in many people’s minds to technology.
This can at first glance be seen as at odds with humanitarian and development approaches centered on people. In fact, technology still remains widely inaccessible to many due to cost barriers and uneven levels of tech literacy. Technology can also create new barriers between aid workers and their target populations, when it is not between aid workers themselves depending on their capacity to master tools and data concepts.
The use of digital solutions also brings to light important ethical questions. More broadly, when it comes to decision-making in project implementation, the usually balanced qualitative/quantitative focus has started drifting to a decision process based exclusively on quantitative tools that can be out of touch with field reality, as we see with the exponential use of dashboards.
Many different approaches have recently tried to counteract this movement. Some of them promote the inclusion of vulnerable populations in the projects that are made for them, while others support the development of data literacy within organizations. We have also seen a focus on the application of best practices and principles centered around responsible data management and digital development in the sector; in particular in relation to IM methodologies and the development of new tools.
During the 2020 GeOnG forum, we therefore would like to explore further how information management technology and practices can truly be human-centered, integrating the (different) rights of people and communities in their full diversity. We will engage in discussions on the different facets of being responsible and inclusive in relation to data, questioning the degree to which it can really be achieved and discussing the constraints that humanitarian and development organizations (will) inevitably meet in trying to achieve such a goal - and as always, exploring potential solutions.
A few concrete examples of topics
Concretely, we intend to look at the 2020 GeOnG main theme from the angle of better integrating vulnerable populations to the data life cycle with a focus on ensuring that the data collected is particularly representative of populations at risk of discrimination. There will also be a strong focus on the implementation of the ethical Do No Harm approach in relation to data: simple security & protection measures and tools, streamlining of data privacy rights in programming, algorithmization of data processing and so on and so forth.
Similarly, we hope to question the role of the often considered less direct stakeholders of humanitarian and development data (such as civil society actors, governments, donors, etc.) to identify clearer pathways to share the data that should be shared for the common good and protect the data that should clearly not be.
Lastly, we will cover the idea of promoting data literacy beyond NGO information management and M&E staff to facilitate data-driven decision making. The question of inclusiveness and responsible practices in terms of data will also be looked at through the lens of the less obvious angle of ensuring that tools and solutions used and promoted by humanitarian and development organizations are also sufficiently user friendly and inclusive that is to say by limiting in-built biases and promoting human-centric design.
This list is, of course, non exhaustive! The GeOnG agenda will explore, as usual, many topics of interest to the sector!