Tag Archives: information

COVID-19 and Information Management in the Aid Sector

Guest post from Originally posted on Jan 20, 2021.

A few learnings from the COVID-19 crisis and its impacts on Information Management practices in the aid sector: improving information through inclusive processes and capacity building

 

Cette ressource est également disponible en français ici.

This resource was produced by CartONG and benefited from the methodological advice and in-depth review of Groupe URD, as part of its support to CartONG in the framework of the current project.

In the last year or so, the COVID-19 crisis has impacted the aid sector in multiple ways and on various topics. Humanitarian data management is no exception. In the past decade, information and data management has become more and more important in humanitarian responses. During this particular crisis, as conducting regular field data collection and exchanging with communities got more challenging, humanitarian actors were forced to adapt their data collection and information management practices. This very particular situation invites us to reflect on the difficulties faced by NGOs in Information Management (IM), the choices they made, how it fits into a larger reflection process in terms of discussing IM stakes and strengthening IM practices within the aid sector.

Since April 2020, CartONG has been implementing a project to support the humanitarian sector in adapting its Information Management and Monitoring & Evaluation response to the COVID-19 crisis. In the course of this initiative, our team has witnessed how operational NGOs adapted to the situation, as different phases of the crisis unfolded, as well as how their data and information management needs and practices evolved. We have also observed new trends in the sector (dashboarding, remote data collection) and reflected on the difficulties operational actors were facing in terms of data and information management.

Building on this enriching experience, this learning paper aims at providing an analysis of such evolutions, in particular looking at the impact of the crisis on internal information flows and responsibilities within aid NGOs and what the use of new IM tools meant in terms of IM practices. It also reflects on how these evolutions can help improve the quality of information produced by NGOs. CartONG’s perspective was complemented by the perspective of other H2H organizations and operational actors who have agreed to share their experience with us.

You can read the document by downloading it in PDF format by clicking here or by clicking on the image.

Whether you have found this resource useful or not, we would love to hear back from you 😊 Please take one minute to fill in this 5-question survey (https://framaforms.org/questionnaire-de-satisfaction-help-center-covid-19-1594987789) to help improve the guidance we will continue producing in the context of this project!

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This project was co-funded by the French Development Agency (AFD) and the H2H Network’s H2H Fund, the latter supported by UK aid from the UK government. Nevertheless, the ideas and opinions presented in this document do not necessarily represent those of the H2H Network, UK aid and AFD.

Being data driven… can it be more than a utopia?

by Emily Tomkys Valteri, the ICT in Program Accountability Project Manager at Oxfam GB. In her role, Emily drives Oxfam’s thinking on the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) for accountability and supports staff with applications of ICTs within their work. 

Every day the human race generates enough data to fill 10 million blu-ray discs and if you stacked them up it would be four times the height of the Eiffel tower. Although the data we process at Oxfam is tiny in comparison, sometimes the journey towards being “data driven” feels like following the yellow brick road to The Emerald City. It seems like a grand ideal, but for anyone who knows the film, inflated expectations are set to be dashed. Does data actually help organisations like Oxfam better understand the needs of communities affected by disaster or poverty? Or do we need to pull back the curtain and manage our expectations about getting the basics right? When there are no ruby slippers, we need to understand what it is we can do with data and improve the way data is managed and analysed across countries and projects.

The problem

Oxfam works in over 90 countries using a variety of different data management and analysis tools that are developed or purchased in country. In the past, we have experimented with software licenses and database expertise, but we have started aiming for a more joined up approach. It’s our belief that good systems which build in privacy by design can help us stay true to values in our rights based Responsible Program Data Policy and Information Systems Data Security guidelines – which are about treating those people whom data is about with dignity and respect.

One of our most intractable challenges is that Oxfam’s data is analysed in system silos. Data is usually collected and viewed through a project level lens. Different formats and data standards make it difficult to compare across countries, regions or even globally. When data remains in source systems, trying to analyse between different systems is long and manual, meaning that any meta analysis is rarely done. One of the key tenants of Responsible Data is to only collect data you can use and to make the most of that information to effectively meet people’s needs. Oxfam collects a lot of valuable data and we think we need to do more with it: analyse more efficiently, effectively, at national and beyond level to drive our decision making in our programmes.

The solution

In response, Oxfam has begun creating the DataHub: a system which integrates programme data into a standard set of databases and presents it to a reporting layer for analysis. It bakes in principles of privacy and compliance with new data protection laws by design. Working with our in-house agile software development team we conducted four tech sprints, each lasting two weeks. Now we have the foundations. One of our standard data collection tools, SurveyCTO, is being pushed via a webhook into our unstructured database, Azure Cosmos DB. Within this database, the data is organised into collections, currently set up by country. From here, the data can be queried using Power BI and presented to programme teams for analysis. Although we only have one source system into quantitative analysis for now, the bigger picture will have lots of source systems and a variety of analysis options available.

To get to where we are today, Oxfam’s ICT in Programme team worked closely with the Information Systems teams to develop a solution that was in line with strategy and future trends. Despite the technology being new to Oxfam, the solution is relatively simple and we ensured good process, interoperability and that tools available to us were fit for purpose. This collaborative approach gave us the organisational support to prioritise these activities as well as the resources required to carry them out.

This journey wasn’t without its challenges, some of which are still being worked on. The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force in May 2018, and Oxfam has had to design the DataHub with this in mind. At this stage, data is anonymised during integration and so no Personally Identifiable Information (PII) enters the DataHub due to a series of configurations and processes we have put in place. Training and capacity is another challenge, we need to encourage a culture of valuing the data. This will only be of benefit to teams and the organisation if they make use of the system, investing time and resources to learning it.

We are excited about the potential of the DataHub and the success we have already had in setting up the infrastructure to enable more efficient data analysis and more responsive programming as well as save resources. We are keen to work with and share ideas with others. We know there is a lot of work ahead to foster a data driven organisation but we’re starting to feel, with the right balance of technology, process and culture it’s more realistic than we might have first hoped.