Dissecting digital inequities 🗡️

Data Values Digest #2 by Josh Powell

Dear all, 

Welcome to the latest Data Values Project update. It’s been a couple of weeks since we launched our #DataValues web hub, and we’ve got a range of activities coming up.

We’re getting ready to launch the #DataValues Fireside Chat series—a set of curated, personal conversations with key thinkers and historically excluded voices on how data values affect our lives. Stay tuned for the first of these later this month! 

This time we’re focusing on digital inequities. There’s never been a more urgent time to address the way our current data systems empower some communities, while disempowering others. 

On the Data Values blog this week, DataReady founder Tom Orrell posted a powerful personal account of his experiences with data governance, pointing to how inequities in data disempower and imperil the world’s most vulnerable. Tom’s post followed an online event, Dissecting Digital Power Inequities, where digital rights activists shared their experiences fighting for data justice.

Elsewhere on the blog, Community Systems Foundation director Jon Kapp called for “doubling and tripling our efforts to ensure no one is left behind in development data,” and ‘Gbenga Sesan of Paradigm Initiatives made a case for providing more training and education to address global inequality. 

“We have to make the moral case for the Data Revolution to have human rights at its heart a lot more powerfully. We need to listen to, and ally with, digital rights activists who know the risks. We need to rely less on ‘quick wins’ and focus on designing data infrastructures that are transparent, participatory, inclusive and accountable from the outset." - From Tom’s blog on Data Values.

A story that made us think: Looking beyond binary data values.

Why are Indian men getting more COVID-19 vaccinations than women? Unequal access to smartphones or mobile data to plug into India’s vaccine tracking system contribute, but the gender gap is also likely wider than it seems. A report this week showed that up to 4.8 million transgender, intersex or other non-binary individuals are excluded from India’s official data. 

In the spotlight: Digital inequities and fostering agency in data for development. 

  • What is data justice? The technological march toward better data lacks concern and awareness for personal, digital rights and protections. Linnet Taylor proposes three pillars to form a framework for global data justice: “(in)visibility, (dis)engagement with technology, and antidiscrimination.” Read more here.

  • Who gets to decide who is ‘poor’? Phillipine researchers this week published a report pointing to a disconnect between official government reports of declining poverty and hunger rates and what’s really happening on the ground. Their assessment: “The determination of who is “poor” should not be left to the government alone.” Read more here

  • What say do children have in managing their own personal data? Kids are more vulnerable, less able to understand the implications of sharing their data and widely represented, but rarely consulted, in data for development. UNICEF’s manifesto calls for change. Read The Case for Better Governance of Children’s Data: A Manifesto (2021) here

  • What does an intersectional approach to data entail? “The ways data is currently collected and used often leads to those at greatest risk of marginalization being hidden, excluded or discriminated against,” a new report from the Inclusive Data Charter, champions and partners explains. Part of a series of knowledge products including case studies, a white paper and more, this resource guides practitioners through practical applications of intersectional approaches to data that can be integrated into organizations and institutions. Read the white paper (download .pdf) and explore the full collection of knowledge products here.

Until next time,


Joshua Powell | jpowell@developmentgateway.org | Development Gateway

Better data. Better decisions. Better lives. | @Data4SDGs | #DataValues