Developing a Local Level Data Inventory

February 17, 2021 DCDJ, Health Emily Fung, Lindsey Fincham
Program

DCDJ and the Council of NGOs fighting AIDS and other pandemics in Côte d’Ivoire (COSCI) built a searchable list of hyper-local datasets across CIV. The data inventory holds records of which organizations have datasets related to topics of community interest, for example, which organizations have data on the number of individuals tested for HIV/AIDS in a specific year. Collating this information from disparate sources into one unified platform reduces duplication and siloed information. Through the data inventory, anyone – local officials, clinicians, community groups, researchers, etc. – can contribute to and access information on datasets in the community.

Des Chiffres et Des Jeunes (DCDJ) is a program led by Development Gateway and administered through the MCC-PEPFAR Data Collaboratives for Local Impact (DCLI) program. DCDJ aims to bolster the subnational supply and use of data for Ivorian citizens, engage youth as champions of these services, and fuel innovation to address rising data needs.

Background

A data inventory is a fully described record of the datasets maintained by/for an organization, region, thematic area, or government. Each inventory record contains basic information like data set name, purpose, owner, quality, and/or update frequency. This basic information about each data set is known as the “metadata.”1 A metadata inventory is beneficial in a context where information may be siloed across organizations, institutions, and departments, but where information could be useful when shared, or where valuable datasets are held by organizations working at the regional level.2

Problem

Across our work, we have found that data flows from the hyper-local levels in the form of reporting, but that local programs do not typically use that data themselves. Without local data, individuals often act as passive “beneficiaries.” There are strong arguments that local efforts and local governments are positioned to make the biggest impact on the SDGs. Despite this, there is still very little data actually accessible, shared, or reused locally. Government agencies and CSOs are unaware of what data sets exist, default to not sharing existing data, and duplicate efforts in data collection – or in some cases, fly blind without data needed to make informed decisions. 

Working Toward a Solution

DCDJ worked with COSCI, a collaborative of 145+ community groups, to build, populate, and improving the data inventory. COSCI helped DCDJ understand what data already exists at the community level. This knowledge is essential to empowering local government, development partners, community organizations, and citizens to actually use that information.

We worked simultaneously on two workstreams: 1) awareness-raising and outreach, and 2) technical development. On the technical side, we initially worked with 17 stakeholders to understand the system requirements, develop, and test the beta product. To ensure sustainability, we built the inventory using CKAN, an open source platform, based in python. After the beta inventory was completed, we tested it with stakeholders and DCDJ data fellows. 

Training on the Data Inventory

For the awareness-raising and outreach component, we again partnered with COSCI to map organizations that would be interested in the inventory and that would have datasets to share. During the awareness-raising, we learned that individuals had difficulty envisioning why and how to use the originally empty platform. We used our network of DCDJ Data Fellows, who were already in placement sites, to identify existing datasets to populate the platform. This step made outreach much easier. In addition to one-on-one outreach and trainings, we also held larger training sessions where users learned the basics of data quality and use and technical aspects of using the platform. Additionally, we focused training on data governance and privacy. Issues of digital privacy were a new concern for many of the individuals and organizations involved in the data inventory. These sessions covered what qualifies as personal information, anonymization of data, how to strip a data set, and when to say no to data requests. 

Outcomes and Next Steps

DCDJ’s Data Inventory was designed to make local data available to local CSOs. However, when it originally launched, only 2% of the 530 stakeholders (across 100+ organizations) had submitted datasets. According to Ms. Frida Seka, “the organizations felt like the inventory was a new problem we were adding to their shoulders.”

Through intensive awareness raising, data management training, and ongoing contact, the data inventory has grown exponentially since its inception and initial iteration. As of February 2021, stakeholders have supplied 614 total datasets with more added regularly. Each organization has submitted an average of five datasets, and we were able to increase dataset submission from 2% to 86% of targeted organizations in under a year. The Inventory acts as a bridge between organizations. People have easy access to new contacts and understand their roles in the larger data ecosystem more clearly. 

Screenshot of the Data Inventory

Dongo Evariste, DCDJ Fellows Ambassador, explained, “CSOs are showing increased interest in the inventory, volunteering staff time to help the platform grow. CSOs also find the inventory useful, because it provides an easy map of the organizations working on a given topic, promotes sharing of information, and can trigger new partnership opportunities.” One business owner said that Data had always been useful to her, though she hadn’t always seen that information as “data” – it had long allowed her to connect with buyers and expand her business, but that the Inventory enabled her data to be useful to others as well. Of the data inventory training, Avi Eddy Bertand, Prevention Coordinator for Red Ribbon Côte d’Ivoire said, “Training allowed us to better understand how we could manage our data, how to collect it, how to use it. Before, we had difficulties being able to properly organize and secure our data. Now we have assigned someone to be responsible for the data and to share with partners when needed. We have also advised other NGOs to take part in the training and become members of the platform.”

As Mme. Seka put it, “it is a long and complex process to get entities to fully buy into the platform, but we are seeing more and more partners getting involved every day. Our work is not done, but the Inventory can help NGOs truly realize the importance of their work.” 


1. GovExLabs, “Data Inventory Guide,” 2019, https://labs.centerforgov.org/data-governance/data-inventory/

2. Open Data Watch, “Assessing the Coverage and Openness of Official Statistics,” http://opendatawatch.com/publications/open-data-inventory

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