Data sharing has the potential to improve humanitarian delivery, whether through real-time insights, more efficient and evidence-based operations with less wasteful duplicated data gathering, or through greater accountability. However, questions about what responsible data sharing, use and analysis looks like in the humanitarian sector is a critical debate. It grows ever more pressing as the number and diversity of actors creating and using data grow, and as digital risks become more apparent and digital rights better articulated.
This working paper aims to help humanitarian actors and donors better navigate the conflicting opportunities, and actual and potential risks involved in data sharing. The humanitarian sector is complex; many different actors and activities are involved in data sharing practices, from those who collect data, to those involved in processing, storing, sharing and using data and insights. This diversity of actors is especially striking when considering ‘third-party monitors’ – independent organisations contracted to assess humanitarian programmes. These entities play a crucial role in the humanitarian data ecosystem: they create and share information on response contexts and aid users. Yet they are under-studied, even as the sector better understands and codifies responsible data practices.
In exploring data sharing risks and opportunities around third-party monitors, the paper finds a system where few have clear oversight of where data has originated and how it will be used. Though commitments to upholding good practices are common across organisations, the range of data risks remains unevenly distributed and are still borne primarily by aid users and data enumerators that third-party monitors employ. In focusing on these actors and their pivotal role in data sharing in the sector, the lessons and recommendations from this study have relevance to all organisations and humanitarians who share data in crisis responses.
This working paper is a collaboration between the Humanitarian Policy Group at ODI and Somali Public Agenda, a non-profit public policy and administration research organisation based in Mogadishu, Somalia.