Advancing expertise in health data governance: a summary

How can countries make the most of technology and data to build stronger health systems and create better health outcomes?

To explore this, the Global Partnership and D-tree facilitated a peer exchange between the governments of Kenya and Zanzibar. Both governments have digitally transformed their health systems in recent years and are prioritizing health data governance.

While many governments are leveraging technology and data to improve their health systems and deliver better healthcare outcomes, numerous challenges often prevent the data generated by digital health programs from being used effectively. The regulatory frameworks and data governance practices necessary to facilitate the effective, safe, and fair use of health data are often non-existent. Moreover, few opportunities exist for governments to increase their knowledge about data governance, especially on a practical level. 

This country-level exchange allowed both governments to compare and share their experiences relating to their different regulatory environments and ongoing projects. It also helped lay the foundation for ongoing collaboration and discussion around how to make the best use of health data.

How did it work?

The exchange took place in Kenya over two days in June 2023, including participation from senior level Ministry of Health officials and technical staff. Discussions spanned legislation, data security, privacy, interoperability, and comparisons of the digital health priorities, strategies, and infrastructure of each country. The discussion was complemented by a visit to Kitengela Sub-County Hospital, the first health facility in Kenya to adopt the Afya KE platform and fully digitize all its health services.

The speed and coordination exhibited by the Ministry of Health Kenya were impressive. The visit provided valuable insights and highlighted the importance of infrastructure and political will. 

– Mr. Khamis Bilal Ali, Health Coordinator, Pemba, Ministry of Health Zanzibar

Key insights

By the end of the exchange, participants had gained valuable insights for advancing health data governance and data initiatives. Key lessons include: 

  • The crucial roles played by national and institutional infrastructure, frameworks, and regulations in driving and guiding digitization processes; 
  • The importance of government funding and political will in driving change; 
  • And the significance of accountability and participation in data management. 

Collaboration with external organizations and international agencies was identified as crucial for supporting successful implementation. Furthermore, data quality and management were highlighted as essential for effective healthcare outcomes, and empowering patients in data sharing was emphasized to enhance engagement. Sustainable government leadership and investment were deemed vital for long-term impact.

What’s next?

The exchange also set the stage for ongoing discussions and collaborations among the participants. Besides topics directly related to data governance, several items of high mutual interest, related to the broader theme of digital health, surfaced. As a result, participants proposed the creation of a community of practice to facilitate regular knowledge sharing between governments in East Africa. This, together with a reciprocal visit where a Kenyan delegation can observe the progress of the Zanzibar government in taking ownership of various digital health programs, is being developed.

We hope that creating these spaces for governments to share their experiences and lessons with each other, and discuss the issues that are most relevant to them, will accelerate the progress of government-led digital health and data governance initiatives in East Africa.

The exchange allowed us to gain valuable insights into Zanzibar's progress in infrastructure development and change management. We were inspired by their achievements and motivated to accelerate our own efforts. 

– Dr. Joyce Wamicwe, Head of Policy and Research, Kenya Ministry of Health

A detailed report of the peer exchange is available here.

D-tree would like to thank the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation for supporting this work.

News type
October 20, 2023
Blog Author and Organization
Tracey Li, Senior Data Lead, D-tree
This is Global Content
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The collective power of our network

Every year since the Global Partnership’s founding in 2018, the number of our partner organizations has grown, bringing to life the network effect. The value derived and impact created, individually and collectively, have increased as more ideas, experiences, opportunities, and expertise are shared. By communicating, convening, and collaborating on common agendas, partners have built relationships and trust—the glue that holds it all together and transforms us from a loose network of organizations into a partnership to advance data for sustainable development. 

Partners have told us that a primary reason that they join the network is to grow their work and expand their reach. They value gaining knowledge of new and ongoing data initiatives and making connections that help solve problems like lack of data capacity.* 

That is both the value of and what it means to function as a network: Leveraging the network effect enables partners to amplify their work, create and share knowledge, and broker trustworthy data-focused partnerships.

Through partnerships, advocacy, and learning opportunities, we have supported each other to achieve a breadth of impact from increasing knowledge on data for development topics to improving technical skills and changing behaviors and practice. The result? In the Global Partnership’s most recent survey of partners, 80 percent of respondents told us they were proud of being part of this network and of what we have achieved together.** 

Our joint project reached more people than we would have achieved on our own. Besides that, [the Global Partnership] helped make our data advocacy more effective. 

- NGO/CSO partner 

Making a bigger impact together

Today we are a broad and diverse network of partners representing governments, civil society, academia, companies, multilateral organizations, foundations, and media from across all regions of the world, focusing on a wide range of data for development topics. The diversity and breadth of this network fosters connections, inspires new ideas and approaches, fuels collaboration across sectors, and catalyzes action to achieve change. 

As a global network, what we achieve is greater than the sum of our part(ner)s. Together we have brokered more than 120 data partnerships and are working with 48 countries across the globe to strengthen timely decision-making, inclusive data systems, and accountable data governance. 

[Because of the network,] we are more connected to different inclusive data initiatives and have become more skilled in citizen-generated data processes, as well as general data processes.

- NGO/CSO partner

These three pillars respond to the key challenges our partners have identified in harnessing and using data for decision-making. “Focusing on timely data, inclusive data systems, and accountable data governance reflect the three problems that policymakers tell us they face at a national level,” says Global Partnership CEO Claire Melamed, “data that is out of date, data that is not representative of their whole population, and data systems that are not accountable and that therefore lack public trust.”

In 2022, 65 percent of partners made progress in one of these three areas because of their engagement with the Global Partnership.

Thanks to the support of [the Global Partnership], initiatives have been developed within [our national statistical office] to close information gaps for communities such as LGBTQ+ and for the use of alternative [data] sources.

- Government partner

What’s in it for me? The value of being part of the network

As an organization, it’s important to know what our partners value about being in the network so that we can be sure to invest in meeting their needs. Our annual survey early this year asked partners what they had gained in the past year from being part of the network. Here is what we heard: 60 percent of partners reported gaining new knowledge; 51 percent said they had strengthened their technical skills; and 42 percent reported changing approaches or practices by engaging with stakeholders and/or by incorporating new tools or data. 

Partners in 2022 gained knowledge in data topics ranging from data values to alternative data sources such as citizen-generated or geospatial data and data management, sharing, and governance best practices. One government partner told us they had learned about the “usefulness and relevance of cooperating with public and private actors.

Partners also said that being part of the network has enabled them to strengthen or gain technical skills in new methodologies and tools, data science, management, and storytelling, and multi-stakeholder collaboration. For example, partners from the government sector learned about the “use of scanner data, using API tools and other software to read and analyze data.” At the heart of what we do in projects, like supporting the creation of a water data collaborative in Paraguay, our partners from the for-profit sector told us that they learned “about partnering with multiple stakeholders to set up a data collection methodology.”

I think the Global Partnership is making a great work towards improving data literacy and awareness for governments and non-profit organizations that don't see the potential in the data. This is a basic step that needs resources, and the Global Partnership is making significant impact here.

- For-profit partner 

Finally, partners said they had actually changed their approaches or practices due to being part of the network by building multi-stakeholder engagement processes or by incorporating new tools, methods, and sources of data. “On inclusive data…, we were able to consider subgroups we wouldn’t have thought were left behind,” a NGO/CSO partner told us. This includes projects such as the Inclusive Data Charter, which just celebrated its fourth anniversary.

The value of multi-stakeholder engagement

Across the three areas of impact we track, the value of multi-stakeholder engagement and collaboration has been a common thread. Through the power of the network, partners have collaborated with more and different stakeholders, reached larger and broader audiences, and achieved change faster. The key to making these advancement possible lies in the relationships built and the trust fostered through the network. 

The #DataValues Manifesto principles also reflect the collaborative approaches to data creation, sharing, and use embraced by partners. In the most recent survey of partners, 85 percent of respondents told us they wanted to deepen their engagement with the Data Values Project and campaign through means such as actively participating in advocating for change or shifting data practices. The Data Values Project emerged from a call from this network for a vision for a fairer data future, and response from partners is confirmation that the principles in the #DataValues Manifesto continue to resonate in the data for development sector. 

The Data Values campaign has brought out some thought-provoking conversations and helped in fine tuning how I think about data in the work that I do: how to better invest in public participation for accountability and encouraging citizens to have the confidence to engage their leaders through data.

- NGO/CSO partner

An invitation to partner with us

We’re at a crossroads as an organization and a sector as we approach the midpoint of the United Nations’ Agenda2030. The Global Partnership is in the process of creating and refining it’s five-year strategy and is seeking public input on this plan starting in mid-July.

With less than seven years remaining to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we are seeking to tackle the challenges identified by our partners in this survey, including limited access to and availability of data, lack of qualified personnel, and constrained financial resources. 

Together, we will continue to build and support partnerships that power programs like Data4Now and the Administrative Data Collaborative; advocacy efforts around global data financing; progress on public-private data sharing, and capacity-development work through the Capacity Accelerator Network (CAN)

There is a place for you and your organization at the Global Partnership. If you’d like to learn more about joining the network and collaborating to solve today’s biggest challenges using data, email Partner Network Associate Julia Nicolls at

In 2023, we’re seeking to energize our collective work by bringing partners together for a three-day Festival de Datos to share ideas, inspire innovation, broker connections, and build momentum for better data. Will you join us? 

Click here to learn more about the Festival de Datos | November 7 - 9, 2023 | Punta del Este, Uruguay


Link to previous years’ surveys:  2021202020192018

Janet McLaren, Policy and Communications Officer, co-wrote and edited this post. Muthoni Mugo, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Program Officer at the Global Partnership, contributed to analyzing data from the survey and to writing this post. ​​​​​​​

* According to our most recent survey, the top four motivations for joining the network are (respondents could choose more than one answer):
1. Knowledge of data initiatives: 75%
2. Credibility in the data for development sector: 66%
3. Ability to expand work and reach more people): 66%
4. Connections with capacity builders: 64%

**Data in this post is based on the 2022 annual partner survey’s 177 responses. The majority of respondents (48 percent) in this year’s survey were from government partners. Non-governmental and academia/research organizations made up the second and third largest groups of respondents at 28 percent and 11 percent, respectively. To learn more about the survey, email Charu Vijayakumar at




News type
May 24, 2023
Blog Author and Organization
Charu Vijayakumar
Janet McLaren
This is Global Content
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Equipping Kenya's AI community for fair and ethical sustainable development

AI can play a significant role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In improving outcomes across the healthcare, financial, industry, energy, and agriculture sectors, it would have a positive impact on key global issues, such as climate change and the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As part of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit's (GIZ) flagship project, Fair-Forward: Artificial Intelligence for All, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (Global Partnership) supported the development of an AI Practitioners' Guide to ensure that actionable guidance on adhering to data protection regulation and standards related to the ethical use of AI reflect the interest and needs of the Kenyan AI community. The guide, launched on April 20th in Nairobi, emerged from a multi-stakeholder consultation process over the last six months.

AI policy in Kenya faces multifaceted challenges

In November 2019, Kenya's new data protection act came into effect, establishing new standards for digital technologies such as AI. Most practitioners, including Joyce Kihara, Legal Officer at the Commission on Administrative Justice (Office of the Ombudsman) Kenya, agree that AI makes life easier. “The Access to Information Act requires government entities to publish and publicize information,” she explained. “We look at AI as a way to enable us, as an oversight institution, to be more efficient - for example, to understand what sorts of information people need and coming up with algorithms to ensure that there's easy access to information for the public through different platforms.” 

And yet, as Kenya’s new data protection regime is coming into force, AI practitioners lack an actionable framework to develop and deploy AI technology in alignment with data privacy and ethical safeguards. For Eric Wamugu, a software engineer and human-centered product manager, “This means ensuring that AI applications are transparent, protect the rights of users, and are accessible. They must also be inclusive, not inadvertently perpetuating existing inequalities and discriminating against certain groups as a result of technological bias.” 

Another major challenge is limited awareness and understanding of AI. According to Stacy Njimu, Industry Relations Manager at iLabAfrica, “there is a high demand among non-technical innovators who want to collaborate with experts in AI and data science as they appreciate the role of data in ensuring their businesses are running at optimum. These innovators know they need to create some sort of AI tools but are not aware of the guidelines they need to follow, the sequence and principles that need to be followed and the legal frameworks surrounding the development of that tool.” While AI is a global technology, policymakers must navigate the complex landscape of international cooperation and competition and localize it for the benefits of their citizens at national level. 

Developing the AI Practitioners’ Guide

The Fair-Forward project identifies three steps to maximize the opportunities that AI presents in Kenya:

  1. Removal of barriers to AI adoption; 
  2. Strengthening of local technical know-how on AI, and 
  3. Development of policy frameworks ready for AI that ensure emerging technologies benefit humanity as a whole. 

The Global Partnership collaborated with the GIZ, under the umbrella of the Digital Transformation Centre Kenya, to support the implementation of Fair-Forward's third objective above, by developing an AI Practitioners’ Guide. This is an actionable guidance framework to give concrete practical guidance for those involved in AI-based development and use and also help in shaping upcoming regulatory efforts undertaken by Kenyan regulators. 

This involved the assembling and launching of a multi-stakeholder AI practitioners’ group, or Community of Practice (CoP), who were willing to volunteer their time and resources towards exchanging or sharing learnings, tools, and references on best practices on AI for public good. They would then proceed to co-authoring sections of the Guide and support dissemination of the Guide and advocacy for the opportunities it presents in achieving development outcomes and solving common challenges. The CoP was composed of relevant stakeholders representing a diverse range of sectors (government, civil society, academia, and the private sector) and a broad spectrum of technical expertise and specialties. 

The CoP worked together over a series of workshops, peer-to-peer capacity building sessions, and training to first identify and address barriers to AI adoption. The group went on to develop the necessary shared knowledge and subsequently co-create a guiding document covering topics ranging from the building blocks and applications of AI; best practices in ethical deployment of AI innovations across major industries; and key legislative, legal, and regulatory considerations. The diversity of members in the CoP ensured that various challenges, perspectives, and experiences when it comes to AI use for good were represented. The Guide presents a valuable tool in guiding the development and deployment of AI in Kenya across six key factors, as summarized below.

Capacity development and innovation

The Guide begins by defining the building blocks of AI in Kenya. It identifies the foundational requirements and considerations of an enabling environment for a fair and ethical AI ecosystem, including the role of investors, local players, and government. 

The concept of data dividends, in which data subjects receive a share of the revenue made from the commercialization of their data, as well as data trusts to facilitate ethical sharing of data between organizations, are introduced. There are also recommendations for various stakeholders in the tech community to address capacity gaps in AI, including peer-peer learning in both formal and informal settings, mentorship, teaching key AI concepts in schools, and covering ethical and social implications of AI in teaching activities in related fields. 

I have already started using the Guide. In a meeting on harnessing digital technological solutions in business processes in Tunisia, I reminded stakeholders that AI is a component of the digital divide and Africa needs to leapfrog some developmental stages in tech, in order to successfully transition through the fourth industrial revolution. This guide provides a roadmap for acquiring and improving the necessary skills and knowledge to build and maintain AI systems.

Dr. Lawrence Nderu, AI4D Specialist & Lecturer, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology

Ethics and responsible AI

The Guide highlights principles of ethical AI, barriers and threats of AI, along with viable solutions. It underlines that the protection of human rights at both individual and collective level should be an essential prerequisite when developing AI policies. It provides guidance on best practices to develop, test, and deploy AI systems. 

As we develop components such as visual AI recognition systems for collecting data, the machines we build will now be steered by certain guidelines that not only ensure we are using data responsibly, but provide a common language we can use with our clients so that they are also informed and assured about what we did and how it was done.

Benjamin Charagu, Director of Operations, Open Institute

Standardization and collaboration

Finally, the Guide provides a deep-dive into the legal landscape for AI in Kenya at regional, continental, and international levels. While the Kenyan government has taken steps to enact regulatory frameworks that implement ethical and responsible use and application of AI across various sectors of the economy, there are hurdles in adopting AI technology at the legislative and regulatory levels. 

The Guide illustrates the need for public participation, national strategies, redress for people impacted by AI, and an African Standards Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Strategy would provide standardization for the well-being of the African people and close the gap between the physical and digital world.

There is currently no legal framework for ethical AI practice or policy. Rather, everyone defines it according to their point of view. The principles outlined in the Guide can be called ‘soft laws’ as they illustrate key issues and factors that need to be considered from a bird’s eye view, in a way that non-technical people can understand. They also give us a policy direction by recommending practical actions, best practices and standards. This makes it easier for policymakers, for example, the cabinet secretary for Information Communication and Technology, to formulate cross-cutting laws.

— Viola Ochola, Director, Access to Information, Commission on Administrative Justice Office of the Ombudsman, Kenya

Towards a fair future for AI based on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law

The Guide aims to assist policymakers, AI developers, manufacturers, established entities or startups, and users—including youth—in ensuring that AI applications are beneficial to humanity and uphold data protection rights. It acts as a way to raise awareness and educate people about AI to ensure that everyone understands its potential and its limitations. Finally, it is a key framework that can facilitate development of policies and regulations that promote transparency, accountability, and fairness in the use of AI. The AI CoP members are keen to continue disseminating and advocating for the Guide and they agree that overall, ethical AI use in Kenya will require a combination of technological, social, and legal solutions. As one of the members stated, “it is important to be cognizant of the fact that this is a living document on a very fast-changing topic, and it can only be enriched as more people are involved in reviewing and contributing to it.”

Download the guide

Find out more about Fair Forward

This project was managed by Linet Kwamboka, Senior Africa Program Manager at the Global Partnership and Annita Mwagiru, Project Management Officer at the Global Partnership.


News type
April 21, 2023
Blog Author and Organization
Muthoni Mugo
This is Global Content

Our submission to the UN Global Digital Compact

The enormous power of digital technology to transform lives and accelerate development is threatened by its potential to harm people and the environment. In this context, international cooperation is an important component to mediate harms and promote the responsible development and use of data and digital tech. 

That’s why the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (Global Partnership) submitted input to the United Nations (UN) Tech Envoy’s consultation to collect a diverse range of views to shape an international agreement to unlock the benefits of digital technologies. Digital transformation runs on data, as we’ve written before, and our input is drawn from extensive work to promote responsible and responsive data systems. 

About the Global Digital Compact

The United Nations Tech Envoy is seeking input through April 2023 from organizations and individuals (“everyone, everywhere”) to contribute to a Global Digital Compact to “outline shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all.”

The UN Secretary-General’s 2021 report Our Common Agenda laid the groundwork for developing the compact through public consultation. The Global Digital Compact is set to be agreed upon at the Summit of the Future in 2024, and individuals and organizations are encouraged to submit input online through April 30. 

The consultation includes eight broad topics for input: (1) connecting all people to the internet, (2) avoiding internet fragmentation, (3) protecting data, (4) applying human rights online, (5) accountability for discrimination and misleading content, (6) regulation of artificial intelligence, (7) digital commons as a global public good, and (8) other areas. Under each topic, the consultation contains opportunities to submit feedback on three aspects: core principles, key commitments, and other comments.

About our contribution

The Global Partnership submitted input under (3) protecting data, based on what we have heard from our network of more than 700 partners and our organizational experience in leading the Data Values Project (see the Data Values white paper, Reimagining Data and Power, for more details), developing the #DataValues Manifesto, and funding research that showed that investing in data systems is spending to save. 

We encourage you to weigh in to shape the Global Digital Compact, too. Creating a fair data future requires crowding in diverse voices and including views from groups that have been historically sidelined from decision making around data and digital systems. 

Individuals and organizations can submit input via this form online or by emailing

The Global Partnership’s submission is as follows: 

1. Core principles that all governments, companies, civil society organisations and other stakeholders should adhere to (2500 characters, including spaces)

"Data is integral to each issue covered by the consultation. Data underpins AI algorithms and, if left unchecked, replicates biases baked into the data. Expanding connectivity drives inclusion in digital systems, but people giving up personal data opens new avenues for surveillance and persecution. Protecting human rights online requires transparent and accountable management of the data people leave behind as they use the Internet.

Addressing data issues under data protection is limiting. This approach treats people as passive subjects to be protected rather than as active agents who can shape their digital futures. It implies a heavy focus on legislation and regulation, which are necessary but not sufficient for accountable data governance and can be made more effective through participatory mechanisms. It ignores the need to invest in foundational data systems (see section 3 for details) which are required to take full advantage of digital transformation.

Therefore, data should be treated as a cross-cutting enabler of an open, secure, and fair digital future. 

Data needs to serve everyone, and getting it right is as much a political endeavor as it is a technical one. We must build data systems that help and empower people, instead of harming and excluding them. This demands change in the ways we design, collect, fund, manage, and use data. 

We propose 5 principles:

  1. Support people to shape how they are represented in data: People must have a say in data design and collection that affects their lives. Everyone deserves to have their needs, priorities, and experiences—as they define them—captured in data. 
  2. Invest in public participation for accountability: People must be included in decisions related to data use and re-use. This is essential to hold leaders accountable, protect people from harm, and improve lives. 
  3. Democratize data skills for greater equality: Everyone, everywhere must gain confidence to engage with and use data. Wide-spread data confidence is a building block of a fair data future. 
  4. Create cultures of transparency, data sharing, and use: All leaders must invest in strengthening cultures of data use and re-use. Repeated positive experiences of regulating, sharing, and using data for public good will build trust. 
  5. Fund open and responsive data systems so that all people share in the benefits of data: Governments and donors must dedicate more funding to data systems that support action and promote participation and inclusion from start to finish.


2. Key commitments, pledges, or actions that in your view should be taken by different stakeholders – governments, private sector, civil society, etc. (2500 characters)

The Global Digital Compact is an opportunity to establish agreements, standards, and protocols around data collection and governance which put people at the center by embedding individual and community agency in data use and reuse. The Compact could include these commitments:

Governments establish mechanisms for civil society and communities to shape data collection and participate in decisions about how their data will be governed. Public officials communicate transparently about data laws, policies, and their implications and lead by example, allowing themselves to be held accountable and holding other powerful actors accountable for harmful data-related practices. Donor governments invest 0.8% of ODA in data systems, lower-income countries allocate a minimum of 0.5%, and middle-income countries 0.1%, of annual expenditure to data systems.

Donors and international agencies accompany digital development with financial and technical support for governments and organizations to foster inclusion and participation. They create and support mechanisms to listen to communities and establish feedback loops within their own organizations and in the projects they fund. They recognize that digital development is not only about tools and products, and they invest in skills, capacity, and partnerships to build a culture of data use. They share knowledge and align their priorities with national plans, and they complement existing initiatives rather than carrying out duplicative activities. 

Businesses acknowledge the power they wield and take steps to promote more equitable societies that protect individual and community data rights. They engage in cross-sectoral partnerships, contribute data for social good, and establish user-centric and participatory approaches to build products and services that do not reinforce inequalities. They develop business practices and products that align with people’s aspirations, are not extractive, and that empower people to shape how their data is used.

Civil society organizations represent communities’ needs and interests by supporting their participation in data production and governance. They collect and share data from people and communities and use data to hold governments accountable for their responsiveness to communities. They play a dual role of partners to governments, international agencies, private companies, and activists pushing for greater transparency and accountability in data production and use.


3. Any other comments

The concept of foundational data systems is drawn from the World Bank’s 2021 World Development Report, Data for Better Lives. This includes four foundational pillars—institutions, governance frameworks, infrastructure, and economic policies—which provide the basis for an effective and efficient system. These foundations are supported by a groundwork of enablers—demand, funding, human capital, and trust—which provide the inputs needed to sustain the pillars.

News type
March 11, 2023
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Credit: NicoElNino via Shutterstock.
This is Global Content

In digital transformation, the devil is in the data

Living through COVID-19 focused political minds on the urgency of digital transformation. We all saw how countries that had previously invested in digital infrastructure such as identification or payment systems were able to respond to the crisis quickly and effectively by leveraging these systems for cash transfers, vaccine roll-out, and other relief efforts. The urgency of the moment drove innovations that paved the way for longer term improvements in the speed, reach, and targeting of public services through digital investments.

This is one of the key issues that emerged during a meeting in Bali last week of the world’s richest countries. G20 leaders formally recognized that digital investments are a critical part of the infrastructure of modern administrations, and they committed to advancing “more inclusive, human-centric, empowering, and sustainable digital transformation.” 

During the event, the United Nations Secretary-General called on all countries to support a Global Digital Compact to promote an “open, free, inclusive, and secure digital future for all,” to be agreed upon in 2024. 

This is a goal that everyone should support. But making digital economies work for everyone is a complex challenge rooted in how the data that is produced and used by these systems is managed and governed. Without the capacity and resources to make the most of data produced by digital systems, governments will fail to harness their full potential, leaving many people behind. In other words, in seeking to make the most of digital transformation, the devil is in the data. 

Locating data in digital systems

Digital tools and systems run on data. Their power to transform relies on their ability to collate, analyze, and use vast amounts of data for new insights, smoother processes, and targeted action. 

Countries like Togo are reaping the benefits of a digital system that runs on data. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Togo worked with three organizations to deliver cash transfers to 138,000 people living in poverty. These partners brought together satellite data and phone records to identify the neediest populations. People were then invited to opt in using their identification number, and they received the transfer directly to their mobile phones. Integral to the system, called MobileAid, was having a national identity system that covered 93 percent of adults in the country and provided a usable population registry. Unlike in the United States, where citizens waited months for the government to deliver paper checks often against outdated address information, Togo’s data-enabled digital system delivered relief quickly and efficiently.

Like MobileAid, many of the most transformative digital reforms are built on investments in digital public infrastructure. Like roads and bridges but online, digital public infrastructure creates the technology foundations for digital transformation at societal scale. Common examples of digital public infrastructure include identity systems, payment systems, and sector information systems like DHIS2 in health. 

The databases that underpin digital public infrastructure often hold personal and sensitive information, including names, addresses, identification numbers, health and wellness information, bank details, transaction records, and, in many places, biometric data like fingerprints and pictures. Questions around who has access to this data, whether it can be shared, and how it can be used are fundamental to protecting people’s rights and determining who benefits from the data. 

For example, should governments be allowed to share your health records with banks or insurance companies to evaluate your creditworthiness or insurability? Should a police service be able to find out if you’re HIV positive or if you have had an abortion? What if the political party in power uses financial transaction records to discredit its opponents?

Centering the role of data by examining how it is produced, managed, and used by digital systems—and how this impacts on people—helps to ensure that digital transformation leads to more equitable outcomes and not just greater efficiency.

Building trustworthy digital systems 

It’s easy to get carried away with the promise of new technology, and for governments and donors to focus on building shiny new things. Often this is exactly what the world needs, but without establishing public trust in these new systems through effective data governance, the shiny new technology risks underperforming or even causing harm. 

Controversies surrounding digital identity systems that collect biometric data highlight these risks. While India’s Aadhaar system has been heralded as improving the delivery of social welfare benefits and reducing corruption and waste, widespread reports have identified poor handling of data and inadequate safeguards. This has resulted in serious data breaches and caused a vast amount of people’s personal data to be exposed and used to exclude marginalized groups from services. Similar concerns arose in Kenya when the government began to roll-out the Huduma Namba. In both cases, legal challenges resulted in the countries’ top courts halting the ID system roll-outs until adequate data protection legislation and other safeguards were put in place. 

What digital ID, payment systems, and sectoral information management systems have in common is the vast amounts of personal and often sensitive data they collect and hold in large databases. The greatest potential for improved service delivery and decision-making comes from linking and mining these databases. Critics have argued that this creates a gateway to surveillance—by both the state and the corporations that are subcontracted to run these systems—and loss of individual autonomy. But it doesn’t have to be that way. How the data produced and used by these systems is governed determines whether, on balance, they provide more help or harm. 

Legislation, institutions, and other formal mechanisms of data governance provide critical guardrails as we’ve seen in India and Kenya. Also important are civil society watchdogs and citizens groups that can question digital investments and interrogate whether the safeguards are robust enough. Data governance mechanisms also need to give affected people and communities opportunities to weigh in on how their data will be collected and used by digital systems. Expanding participation in data governance has been shown to promote greater accountability and transparency, create checks and balances, and lead to more trustworthy and equitable digital systems.

Maximizing the potential of digital transformation 

Leveraging the full power of digital transformation, and doing so in a way that commands public support, requires that governments have the institutions, skills, and infrastructure to store, process, analyze, govern, and use the data they produce. As the World Bank argues, this requires integrated national data systems that can set and maintain data quality standards, conduct routine data collection and analysis, store and manage that data effectively, bring together traditional and new data sources, and govern data in a responsible manner. 

Many countries lack these basic capacities. For example, two thirds of low- and middle income countries lack sufficient resources to meet the demands for data created by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are only six out of the 17 SDGs for which more than two thirds of countries have data to report. In our work at the Global Partnership, we find that colleagues from National Statistical Offices are eager to leverage new data and technology but often lack the infrastructure and human resources in data science, geospatial data processing, and data management and governance to take full advantage of digitization.

Despite these persistent challenges, investments in data and statistical systems in low- and middle-income countries have stagnated in the last decade, hovering around $450-650 million and now representing a meager 0.3 percent of Official Development Assistance (ODA). This is a shame because, at just $700 million, the funding gap is not actually very large, and these investments lead to significant returns. 

Investing in data systems is spending to save. A recent study by Dalberg Development Advisors for the Data with Purpose campaign calculates that every dollar invested in foundational data systems produces an average return of $32. More effective data systems improve decision making, create efficiencies through better targeted services, and generate more equitable outcomes. Strengthening legal frameworks, institutions, and processes of data governance will contribute to more inclusive, empowering, and trustworthy environments for digital transformation.

The Dalberg study advocates for all bilateral and philanthropic donors to allocate a minimum of 0.8 percent of annual ODA investment to data systems. Allocating less than one percent of the hundreds of millions of dollars poured each year into digital transformation seems like a small price to build firm data foundations for digital systems, particularly since these systems can’t run without the data.

Looking to the future

Building effective and trustworthy data systems to underpin digital transformation requires a foundation of shared values and reliable investment. Together with a growing movement of partners, the Global Partnership launched the #DataValues Manifesto and kicked off the Data Values campaign in September. The Manifesto envisions a fairer data future and provides a five-point plan to get there. It is both the culmination of a year-long consultation with more than 350 people from over 60 countries and also a starting point for advocacy and action on #DataValues. The Manifesto and accompanying white paper offer ideas and examples to shape data governance and center data values in digital transformation. In the coming year, we’ll be working with partners to promote the Data Values agenda and we’ll be supporting and learning from their efforts to take action on the Manifesto messages. 

We are also proud to be a part of the Data with Purpose campaign, which just launched the Dalberg report and has seen numerous influential political and corporate leaders speak about the importance of investing in data. We are committed to building support for the allocation of 0.8 percent of donor investment to data systems, investments that are fundamental for all countries to realize the full promise of digital transformation.

We’re looking forward to the development of a Global Digital Compact at the UN over the next two years. This process sits within the broader context of work across the UN System to implement the SG’s Data Strategy and to promote rights-respecting digital systems. The UN Technology Envoy is currently running an open consultation to hear from all stakeholders on their priorities for the Compact. We will be working with partners to ensure the Compact puts data values and data investment at the center, and encourage all stakeholders to share their views. 

News type
November 23, 2022
Blog Author and Organization
Jenna Slotin
This is Global Content

Data Values: Act now to create a fair data future for all

Today we’re excited to launch a new agenda for how data is collected, managed, funded, and used with the aim of helping and empowering people instead of harming or excluding them. As rapid shifts in technology and data reshape our organizations, societies, and lives, the #DataValues Manifesto is calling for urgent action to create a fair data future for all.

The Manifesto calls for organizations, governments, and people to act now and together to create this change by: 

  1. Supporting people to shape how they’re represented in data.
  2. Investing in public participation for accountability. 
  3. Democratizing data skills for greater equality. 
  4. Creating cultures of transparency, data sharing, and use. 
  5. Funding open and responsive data systems so that all people share in the benefits of data.

This launch marks a critical moment in the evolution of the data for development community’s attitudes and practices. Nearly a decade after the United Nations’ call for a data revolution for sustainable development, we’ve witnessed unprecedented support and consensus for challenging power dynamics in data systems to ensure that data practices benefit everyone, everywhere. In a recent survey of network organizations by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (the Global Partnership), nearly 90 percent of those surveyed agreed that “the data for development community needs a stronger common vision for data ethics, rights, and governance”.

Since the Data Values Project public consultation launched in Spring 2021, over 350 people from more than 60 countries have come together to examine how to rebalance the unequal power dynamics and inequities that too often underpin data systems. Hear from those whose experiences and insights informed the project, people like Eric Ndawula, Gwen Philips, and Natalie Grover and Ivette Yáñez - with many more stories to come. 

Continuing this collective effort, a global #DataValues campaign will spark dialogue and catalyze action on the Manifesto. Anyone committed to creating a fair data future is encouraged to join the campaign, learn more about ways to engage through the campaign toolkit and sign up to receive updates on engagement opportunities. We will be supporting more people to 

Add your voice to the #DataValues campaign now: Click here to share this campaign on Twitter.

We’re also seeking applicants for a year-long Data Values Advocates program that will support grassroots and community activists to lead this global effort. The program will support those most affected by today's unequal dynamics to be at the forefront of shaping tomorrow’s data systems. A call for applications is open through October 2, 2022.

We’re eager to see how leaders across sectors run with this agenda and translate it into practical change in the communities where they work. As Josh Powell of Development Gateway explains, “my [...] hope is that the Data Values Project creates just enough of a starting framework that communities focusing on issues such as agricultural transformation, child protection, gender equity, education, and so on can find a common point of reference from which to build more detailed, sector-specific approaches to negotiating trade-offs and delivering better policies and services that improve lives.”

To support organizations, governments, and people in this effort, we’re working with partners to develop a number of tools and approaches. We will be testing new ways to foster inclusion and participatory data governance; supporting adoption of new norms at regional and global levels; making grassroots grants available to organizations pioneering ways of implementing this agenda; and learning from these activities and translating that knowledge into usable tools and resources for others.

The Global Partnership is also internalizing the #DataValues Manifesto. We are developing tools that will enable secretariat staff to apply a data values lens across our partnership brokering, network engagement, communications activities, convenings, and internal processes. 

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News type
Issue areas
September 16, 2022
Blog Author and Organization
Jenna Slotin
This is Global Content
The Data Values Project

Participatory data governance: How small changes can lead to greater inclusion

Inclusion in data is essential for citizens to exercise their rights and hold public authorities accountable for policies and programs. Historically, “Indigenous communities around the world have experienced the adverse consequences of being excluded from data, of having no say in how they will be measured, and of having their lived experience ignored,” according to Gwen Phillips, an Indigenous data advocate and member of the Ktunaxa Nation. In Canada, this resulted in health policies that did not effectively serve First Nations people, focusing on the negative rather than recognizing the strengths of Indigenous communities. 

Inclusion in data is often understood as making sure that the experience of the largest possible number of individuals is reflected in collected evidence by, for instance, implementing data disaggregation. Data disaggregation helps to uncover the experiences of different groups of people and to identify disparities and inequalities by breaking down characteristics such as disability status, gender, or age.

Due to this focus on disaggregation, inclusion in data is often confined to the data collection phase. But participatory data governance approaches allow us to see a bigger picture as we put individuals and/or communities in the driver’s seat to define how their data are collected, managed, and used. Participatory approaches range from formalized partnerships to consultations, citizens assemblies, and steering committees (see image below). These forms vary in the extent to which they rely on direct representation of individuals (i.e. citizens’ assemblies) or indirect representation and delegation (i.e. data intermediaries). They also vary in their degree of institutionalization, ranging from approaches leveraging new legal entities (i.e. data trusts) to formal or informal consultative mechanisms (i.e. multi-stakeholder fora). 

Types of participatory data governance mechanisms / Source: Reimagining Data and Power - A roadmap for putting values at the heart of data, The Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, 2022.
Types of participatory data governance mechanisms. Source: Reimagining Data and Power - A roadmap for putting values at the heart of data, Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, 2022.

What the majority of participatory data governance approaches have in common is strong collaboration between public authorities and civil society organizations and representatives of communities that have been historically marginalized and excluded or who are at risk of being marginalized. This leads to better data and evidence for policy-making. For instance, a partnership between the Canadian government and First Nations communities led Statistics Canada to better understand the factors that exacerbate exclusion and capture the lived experiences of these communities. 

These practices are pivotal for increasing inclusion and accountability in data beyond the data collection stage. In fact, while inclusion at the data collection phase remains extremely important, participatory data governance approaches can be adopted at any stage of the data lifecycle.

  • Before data collection starts: Building relationships with communities at risk of being marginalized helps clarify “what to count” and how to embed the needs and aspirations of vulnerable populations in new data collection approaches. The National Department of Statistics in Colombia’s (DANE) multi-year work with Indigenous communities enabled the statistical office to change their population survey approach, leading to more inclusive data policies. 
  • After data is collected: Collaborating with civil society organizations enables public authorities to assess how and through which channels data should be shared with target communities. When the government of Buenos Aires wanted to provide information to increase access to sexual and reproductive health services, it worked with civil society to gather feedback and develop a platform that would be useful and accessible to the target population.
  • At the stage of data use: Participatory approaches for data inclusion also support greater data use, both by public authorities and by external stakeholders. In Medellin, Colombia, the availability of more granular and more inclusive data on teen pregnancy enabled the government to develop better prevention policies and establish personalized services for girls at risk, resulting in a reduction of teen pregnancies by 30%. In Rosario, Argentina, the government’s partnership with associations representing persons with disabilities led to the development of much more accessible and inclusive public portals, which in turn resulted in better access to services for all citizens. 

Implementing participatory data governance approaches is not without challenges. Establishing new relationships between governments and civil society organizations can be demanding, and establishing new mechanisms requires time and investment. These challenges, though, are outweighed by the knock-on benefits of participatory data mechanisms, which can spur increased collaboration among government agencies and lead to more impactful policies and effective use of public sector resources. 

The good news for public authorities is that implementing participatory governance approaches to foster inclusion does not require starting from scratch and changing existing data lifecycles entirely. Small changes in the ways in which data is collected, processed and analyzed, such as establishing working groups with civil society organizations or consulting the data subjects on their preferences for data management, can have a tremendous impact on people’s lives and substantially increase data inclusion. 

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (the Global Partnership) will continue to closely collaborate to shed light on how participatory data governance approaches can advance the inclusion agenda and highlight best practices and lessons learned from OGP members and organizations from the Global Partnership’s network.

News type
August 27, 2022
Blog Author and Organization
Martina Barbero
Kate Richards
This is Global Content
Data as a route to inclusion and equity
The Data Values Project

Data Values Project white paper consultation: feedback and responses

The Data Values white paper, Reimagining Data and Power: A roadmap for putting values at the heart of data, is based on contributions from more than 350 individuals from 63 countries who contributed during a year-long consultation. More than 100 people weighed in on an early draft of the white paper published in May 2022 for public consultation. 

The table below summarizes the feedback and the steps taken to incorporate it into the final version of the Data Values white paper. We extend our gratitude to every individual who shared insights, expertise, and valuable time to improve this white paper.

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News type
July 16, 2022
Blog Author and Organization
Jenna Slotin
This is Global Content
The Data Values Project

Staying connected in a disconnected world: introducing our new identity

The world feels like a very different place to 2015, when the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (the Global Partnership) began its work. Global crises like climate change, pandemics, and hunger require an even more joined-up approach to data production, use, and governance, and increase the urgency of our work. We want to see data produced by companies and NGOs on one side of the world being shared with policymakers tackling urgent challenges on the other. We want to see everyone actively participating in the governance of their own data. We want to make sure that the world’s best data is being used to solve the world’s worst problems. 

To deliver against this ambitious agenda, we are evolving our network and external identity, working with more partners from an even more diverse array of geographies and sectors, and updating our digital presence to become more inclusive and accessible. We’ve made it easier to engage in a variety of different ways: by signing up to our listserv community, joining an activity, partnering on a project, and participating at events. Everyone will be able to receive all our communications, resources, and engage at convenings.

Our network now connects more than 650 organizations from governments, civil society organizations, academia, and companies—all ready to accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals with more timely, inclusive, and accountable data. We create spaces for different data communities to come together, and mobilize to break down barriers and silos between data actors, all focused on using data to drive progress for people and the planet. 

A refreshed identity and website

To increase our impact and the power of the network, we’ve updated and strengthened our identity and digital presence. Our fresh visual identity better reflects who we are and where we are going. In messaging terms, we are raising the bar and becoming more nuanced—we can only do that because of the tireless work of our partners over the years in helping people see the inherent value of data in the development space. The message is no longer simply that data is worthy of attention, but about how to design data programs and systems that are sustainable, ethical and just.

Communicating the how of building fairer, more effective data systems is complex and that’s why our new identity goes hand in hand with a more impactful and compelling online experience—ensuring the Global Partnership story and our network’s collective impact shines on our website. A few things that excite us about our revamped website is improved accessibility, a new area on impact, and an events section.

The next chapter

Our new identity comes at an exciting moment for our ever-growing network, as we look ahead to lots of connected pieces in the Autumn and beyond. Global advocacy efforts are a growing focus of our community, with 86% of our partners agreeing that a greater coordinated effort on ethical and inclusive data is needed. Answering this call, the Data Values Project campaign is launching in the Autumn, centring around a manifesto for action. Alongside this, we are working with our board co-conveners UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohamed and the World Bank’s Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships Marie Pangestu and others on raising data financing at scale.

We look forward to using our digital presence to provide more opportunities to you all: 

  • We want to get your tools used where they're needed most—share them with us.
  • We want to crowdsource solutions to the problems you are facing—reach out to talk about challenges.
  • We want to amplify your opinions on the trends you're seeing—tell us about them.

This work has been made possible by the generous support of the Hewlett Foundation to help deliver our vision. We are grateful to Soapbox and Ymbra for their support in making our new identity and website a reality. 

News type
July 2, 2022
Blog Author and Organization
Claire Melamed
This is Global Content

Unlocking the power of data: The Global Partnership's highlights from 2023

It has been an important year for data and development, and for the Global Partnership. In 2023, we launched a new 2024-2030 strategy, and collaborated on key initiatives to unlock the power of data around the world. We are finishing the year filled with hope, determination and purpose following the unforgettable Festival de Datos in Uruguay.

In this blog, we're taking a closer look at some highlights, including a selection of inspiring resources shared, progress on key initiatives, how the Global Partnership network has strengthened and grown, and a peek at what's to come in 2024.

Resources for the data for development community

We published some important new resources this year, to highlight work and share lessons from the network to transform the way data is used and shared. 

  • Kicking off the year, we shared an impact story on a collaboration with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), with findings on how to integrate citizen-generated data for official reporting on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

  • This investment case outlines the economic, social, environmental, and institutional benefits of investing in more and better data, as well as calls to action for stakeholders across sectors.

  • Our Artificial Intelligence Practitioners’ Guide: Kenya, co-developed with the AI community in Kenya, offers practical guidance for those involved in AI-based development and use in the country, and beyond. Topics include the applications of AI, best practices for ethical deployment across major industries, and important regulatory considerations.

  • In March, we published a report looking at the first four years of the Inclusive Data Charter (IDC) initiative. The IDC aims to advance the availability and use of inclusive and disaggregated data, so that governments and organizations can better understand and address the needs of marginalized people.

  • One of the Inclusive Data Charter Champions, the Office of the Chief Government Statistician Zanzibar, has taken a bold, data-driven approach to address the issue of gender-based violence in the nation. This blog takes a closer look at their work. 

  • Through our partnership with Uruguay’s national statistical office, Instituto Nacional de Estadística, we helped to solve a data management challenge and transform the way information is shared through data visualization. Read about this partnership in English or Spanish.

  • In June, the Global Partnership and D-tree facilitated a peer exchange between the Ministries of Health in Kenya and Zanzibar – both are championing health data governance. This case study shares key lessons, challenges, and next steps.

  • This impact story looks at Paraguay’s inspiring work on developing a system for sharing data to manage the country’s water resources more effectively.

  • This report examines how to design effective learning platforms for the data for development community, what motivates learners, and the barriers they face. 

  • Finally, in a large effort involving more than 50 stakeholders, the Global Partnership collaborated with Chief Statisticians from the United Nations System, ETH Zurich, and national partners to report on the state of global SDG data and map opportunities for progress. Download the Pulse of Progress report.

Dr Claire Melamed, Global Partnership CEO, kicks off the opening ceremony at Festival de Datos. Photo by Pablo Kreimbuhl.

Claire Melamed, Global Partnership CEO, kicks off the opening ceremony at Festival de Datos. Photo by Pablo Kreimbuhl.

Unlocking the power of data for all

Better data will be critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This year, we’re halfway through the Goals and a lot of ours and our partners’ work is focused on getting there.

  • The Global Partnership’s new 2024-2030 strategy was launched in November. The strategy is built on three pillars: make inclusion the norm, putting people at the center of data production, sharing and use; strengthen national data systems for timely decision making; and shape how data is governed to ensure it is accountable to those whom it is intended to serve.

  • In September, we convened a fantastic group of speakers and partners to launch the Power of Data High Impact Initiative at UN HQ in New York. The aim is to create 30 National Data Partnerships by September 2024, to unlock new data sources, technologies, and investment to achieve the SDGs. Just over six weeks after the launch, the first steps towards making these partnerships a reality were agreed at Festival de Datos. Watch the launch video for the High Impact Initiative: 

  • Also in September, we celebrated the first birthday of the Data Values Movement, which aims to unite people around the world in advocating for a fair data future for all. More than 600 organizations have joined the movement, and more than 100 countries have been involved so far. Learn about the work of our Data Values Advocates in the video below, and sign up to the Data Values Digest for the latest from the campaign.

  • In November, the network came together in beautiful Punta del Este, Uruguay, for the exhilarating Festival de Datos. With sessions ranging from the youth takeover plenary, timely debates on the future of AI and inclusive data, and so much more, new and existing partners left with fresh perspectives and connections of their own.

Strengthening the network

The Global Partnership network has grown to 700+ partners, an increase of six percent since the beginning of the year, and we've collaborated on key initiatives to unlock the power of data around the world.

Several new partners have been onboarded since the closing of the Festival, including Red Dot Foundation and AbortionData Collective, along with ministries from Costa Rica and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Outside of Festival de Datos, the network has continued to grow not only in numbers but also in scope, whether it is increasing partnerships surrounding AI with organizations like Amini, or solidifying government relationships across Latin America and the Caribbean. These new relationships will help to support the 2024-2030 strategy and vision of a fair data future for all.

This is only the beginning of how partnerships will be utilized and formed during the Global Partnership’s next strategic period.

What’s next? A few things to look out for in the coming months

  • In August, we completed a three-month virtual training program on data science and the intersection of climate and health – delivered by our partner, the African Population and Health Research Center – as part of the Capacity Accelerator Network (CAN) program. Stay tuned for an update on this program, and to meet our eight new CAN fellows and hear about their work. 
  • Sightsavers – one of the Inclusive Data Charter (IDC) Champions – has recently launched a new Inclusive Data Charter Action Plan, outlining its renewed commitment to the IDC, how the organization will improve its collection, analysis, and use of inclusive data and make it a priority across its work. We’ll be sharing more about this work in the new year, as well as insights from the first five years of the IDC program.
  • Plus, more resources for the data for development community, stories of impact, and perspectives will be shared.

We are feeling ambitious about 2024 and beyond, and are excited to push the power of data with our network and partners. 

We look forward to all the work we’ll collectively be doing to drive data in development in the next year.

Main photo credit: The youth takeover plenary at Festival de Datos, by Pablo Kreimbuhl.

News type
December 8, 2023
Blog Author and Organization
The Global Partnership
This is Global Content
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