“New technologies have made it easier for governments, businesses and civil society to collect data, share information, target resources, provide feedback and measure progress”, writes Judith Randel from the research centre Development Initiatives. “Information can help to build trust between governments and citizens, allowing people to exercise their rights, hold decision makers to account, reduce corruption and make more informed choices in their daily lives.”
But for people in developing countries to benefit from information in this way, they need to be able to access it and empowered to use it. The responsibility of providing access often falls to the development community, but is enough being done to turn access into knowledge, and knowledge into power?
Progress is being made, as more initiatives emerge that aim to bring data to those in the field. But while such projects are empowering those they can reach, what about those they can’t? In a recent live chat on beneficiaries-led development, Linda Raftree, a senior adviser at Plan International emphasised that the marginalised should not be forgotten. “Many factors will [determine] who participates and how they participate, including disability, literacy and language abilities. Open data or technology enabled participation systems must be designed with this in mind”, she says.