Mapping and Comparing Responsible Data Approaches

December 07, 2016 by Jos Berens, Ulrich Mans, Stefaan Verhulst

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Recent years have witnessed something of a sea-change in the way humanitarian organizations consider and use data. Growing awareness of the potential of data has led to new enthusiasm and new, innovative applications that seek to respond to and mitigate crises in fresh ways. At the same time, it has become apparent that the potential benefits are accompanied by risks. A new framework is needed that can help balance the benefits and risks, and that can aid humanitarian organizations and others (e.g., policymakers) develop a more responsible approach to data collection and use in their efforts to combat natural and man-made crises around the world. “Mapping and Comparing Responsible Data Approaches”, attempts to guide the first steps toward such a framework by learning from current approaches and principles. It is the outcome of a joint research project commissioned by UNOCHA and conducted in collaboration between the GovLab at NYU and Leiden University. In an effort to better understand the landscape, we have considered existing data use policies and principles from 17 organizations. These include 7 UN agencies, 7 International Organizations, 2 government agencies and 1 research institute. Our study of these organizations’ policies allowed us to extract a number of key takeaways that, together, amount to something like a roadmap for responsible data use for any humanitarian organization considering using data in new ways.