Data and digital technologies are changing the way that international development programs are implemented. For years, donors, implementers, and host-country governments have turned toward evidence-driven programming to maximize the impact of development efforts.
These exciting developments have also brought new tensions. A push for greater openness—epitomized by data sharing requirements within USAID’s Development Data Policy—promises to make evidence and information available to a wider audience than ever before. At the same time, such data sharing has reignited debates about data ownership, privacy, and informed consent. In both developed and developing countries, high-profile privacy incidents have eroded public trust in the ability of governments and private companies to keep data secure. All of this happens against a backdrop of increasing private-sector involvement in development, where differing norms and cultures of data use can come into conflict.
This document aims to provide USAID staff and local partners with a framework for identifying and understanding risks associated with development data. It is meant as a conversation starter—to highlight important concerns and provide actionable advice—to help those who use data in development programs maximize utility while also managing risk. By starting to have conversations around responsible data practices, staff and partners will begin to build competency in this area. USAID’s Journey to Self Reliance includes supporting countries to build their own technological capacity and readiness by taking ownership of their data and being held accountable that it is kept safe.