ICT4D Conference 2018: On Big Data, Data Privacy and Digital Principles

With the ICT4D conference taking place over four days (8 – 11th May 2018) there has been a well of discussion about various ICT for Devlopment issues but in today’s sessions the focus was on big data and the nine digital principles.

Big data and partnerships

Corporations that are not experts on how to handle and implement decisions from the data they have should partner with companies specialized in handling it to get optimum results and impact. The SDGs were brought up, with the conclusion that we can not attain them without responsible use of big data and the information it provided. Governments and private sector therefore can come in and invest in value added services (VAS) to ensure that their operation in the development sector are backed by factual information regardless of the sector being managed.

Big data and privacy

On this panel where Rosa Cortada of , Karl Lowe of Catholic Relief Services and Esther Kamande of Kenya ICT Action Network.

“If countries and firms don’t respect data then we’re in trouble. Policy changes can drive organizational shift on work culture.” – Rosa Cortada.

Karl Lowe said too many policies will not be remembered fully by everyone, but data security and privacy norms just have to become instinct wherever they work.  Training on data security is important but getting it to become tradition or part of work culture is what the challenge is.

“We’ve got to work on the little data before we get to the big data and try to get the information and knowledge and share and understand it at basic level. Look at what you’re looking at and figure out what you’re trying to do with it.” – Karl Lowe

Esther Kamande agreed and added that good policies must be implemented to ensure people’s data is kept safe, secure and is not used to manipulate its owners. The right laws must be put in place to keep the ICT sector secure. It’s good to have a multi-sectoral approach to using big data and its strategies afterwards. because growth in any sector results from data sharing from others as the inter-webbing of information can help one sector improve its output based on what’s working in another.

Big data and African Agriculture

Frederic Masse, who is Head of African Agriculture at SAP Africa gave a summary on how agriculture can use big date to imporve oytput and increase revenue. Agriculture is the poorest sector in terms of digitalization. There’s not enough quality big data around it to improve the sector, and this is just not in Africa alone. Big data is only a measure which you can’t do much with, it’s about using it to make decisions/ based on a risk analysis for an action plan. The benefits of digitalization in manufacturing include insights and value into the agro-sector. 250 million smallholder farmers in Africa produce 80% of agricultural products on the continent, who could do more with information from big data . A 1% increase in crop productivity reduces the number of poor people by 0.72% in Africa. Smallholders fail to compete because they don’t have much information on existing market that big data could provide them with to enable them sell their produce at right price and be more competitive.  Access to inputs, access to market, access to financial services, quality and real-time information at state level are some reasons why big data matters in Africa agriculture, but it’s not just about having any data, the big data must be of high quality to make any impact.
Dynamics of adhering to Principles for Digital Development (PDD)
Thsi was presented by Peter Njuguna, who started sharing the 3 steps on the PDD journey being:
Commitment to adopt PDD
  1. Participation in PDD working groups
  2. Annual self-asessment

So far, a 100 organisations have officially endorsed PDD in their operations.

What are the PDDs? The 9 Principles of Digital Development are:

  1. Design With the User: User-centered design starts with getting to know the people you are designing for through conversation, observation and co-creation.
  2. Understand the Existing Ecosystem: Well-designed initiatives and digital tools consider the particular structures and needs that exist in each country, region and community.
  3. Design for Scale: Achieving scale requires adoption beyond an initiatives pilot population and often necessitates securing funding or partners that take the initiative to new communities or regions.
  4. Build for Sustainability: Building sustainable programs, platforms and digital tools is essential to maintain user and stakeholder support, as well as to maximize long-term impact.
  5. Be Data Driven: When an initiative is data driven, quality information is available to the right people when they need it, and they are using those data to take action.
  6. Use Open Standards, Open Data, Open Source, and Open Innovation: An open approach to digital development can help to increase collaboration in the digital development community and avoid duplicating work that has already been done.
  7. Reuse and Improve: Reusing and improving is about taking the work of the global development community further than any organization or program can do alone.
  8. Address Privacy & Security: Addressing privacy and security in digital development involves careful consideration of which data are collected and how data are acquired, used, stored and shared.
  9. Be Collaborative: Being collaborative means sharing information, insights, strategies and resources across projects, organizations and sectors, leading to increased efficiency and impact.

Peter said of these nine in a research study conducted, most organizations found ‘Designing with the user’ as the easiest PDD to adhere to while ‘Designing for scale’ was one of difficult ones. This chart shows how some organizations scaled the 9 PDDs:

He strongly stated that formal endorsement of PDDs by an organization is important but is not a sufficient condition ensuring they are put into practice. The successes attributed to PDDs are dependent on:

  • the problem,
  • the technology solution and
  • the experience of the staff involved

after integration and implementation, it has been discovered how much easier it is for many organizations to work with other ones that have endorsed and implemented the principles of digital development in their operations. However, not all organizations need to integrate ALL the PDDs but usually trade one PDD for another based on what’s a priority to their business or core mandate.