Is a Data Revolution underway, and if so, who will benefit?


Written by Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva, Oxfam’s Head of Research, at the ODI’s Cartagena Data Festival, on Oxfam’s From Poverty To Power blog

A spectre is haunting the hallways of the international bureaucracy and national statistical offices – the spectre of the data revolution.  Now, that might suggest a contradiction in terms or the butt of a joke – it’s hard to imagine a platoon of bespectacled statisticians with laptops and GIS devices toppling governments. But something important is indeed happening – let me try and convince you.

A new research report by ODI  “Data Revolution – Finding The Missing Millions”, launched on April 20 in Cartagena during the Data Festival, tries to make sense of the coming data revolution, and what it means for international development. According to the authors the data revolution is “an explosion in the volume of data, the speed with which data are produced, the number of producers of data, the dissemination of data, and the range of things on which there are data, coming from new technologies such as mobile phones and the internet of things and from other sources, such as qualitative data, citizen-generated data and perceptions data.”

For the numerically minded (I proudly include myself in this group) this is a rather welcome transformation. Data, data everywhere – but then why haven’t we, number geeks, solved all of the world’s problems yet?

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