Kristin B. Sandvik was recently interviewed by Devex ‒ a social enterprise and media platform for the global humanitarian and development community ‒, and shared some of her insights into the promises and pitfalls of humanitarian data. At the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul last month, there were calls for better and more transparent use of humanitarian data. However, as noted by Sandvik, the technical capacity to deal responsibly with data is limited both on a policy level and with respect to implementation in the field. Many humanitarian organizations still lack an official data policy, and the encryption and practical know-how to back it. The humanitarian setting is often characterized by an emergency setting where timeliness and effectiveness are seen as trade-offs, which again complicates ethical and effective data management. On the other hand, there is also room for optimism: As more humanitarian data becomes publicly available, increased transparency in the humanitarian sector will force hard questions about what is working and what isn’t. In the context of the Grand Bargain, advances in humanitarian technology open a new front in the humanitarian struggle for accountability, by enabling local actors to show that they can do the job better and cheaper than international actors.
Devex’s online piece on the role of humanitarian data can be read in full here.