A perspective on the 2016 International Data Responsibility Conference in The Hague, The Netherlands
By: Reint-Jan Groot Nuelend
With input and feedback from Walle Bos
On 19 February, the International Data Responsibility Group (IDRG) hosted the second International Data Responsibility Conference in The Hague, The Netherlands. This annual meeting brings together experts and practitioners working with data for crisis-affected communities and the most at-risk populations worldwide. Through presentations by a variety of experts and six interactive workshops – of which the author visited two – participants explored the potential risks and harms that could be caused by using this data, and ways to prevent these from materializing. This year’s International Data Responsibility Conference was a forward-looking conference centring on finding solutions to the worries about data use for doing good.
During the opening plenary panel discussion moderated by Constantijn van Oranje, the World Food Programme (WFP) showcased the potential of data use for increased efficiency of food programmes. In a pioneering project with Leiden University, WFP is exploring the potential of using data on the movement and mobility of credit cards in Lebanon, to better understand the behaviour of its beneficiary populations and to detect anomalies in spending patterns. Having knowledge of the movements of people can be a strong added value to the effective implementation of programmes within target areas. Besides presenting its own work with and on data, WFP explicitly intended to learn from the conference. Following the latter intention, the WFP posed the following question: how can one avoid harm, while effectively and sustainably using digital data to benefit the people that need it most?
Josje Spierings is head of the Secretariat of the International Data Responsibility Group, a collaboration between the Data & Society Research Institute, Data-Pop Alliance, the GovLab at NYU, UN Global Pulse, Signal Program - Harvard Humanitarian Initiative - Harvard University and Leiden University.