Harnessing data by citizens for public policy and SDG monitoring: a conceptual framework and what is next?
Category: International Association of Survey Statisticians (IASS)
Citizens’ contribution to data, broadly defined as the engagement of citizens in multiple processes in the data value chain, is increasingly recognized as critical to helping overcome many data challenges of our times. In particular, in the context of the 2030 Agenda’s principle to ensure that nobody is left behind, citizen data helps fill critical data gaps for groups suffering from data marginalization and increase the extent to which their experiences are reflected in national statistics. In addition to filling data gaps, some citizen data initiatives provide insights into harmful customary practices as well as further advance important values such as fairness, inclusiveness, openness and transparency in statistics.
Citizens’ contribution to data could happen at different levels – global, regional, national, or local. The engagement of citizens can be organized by different stakeholders - scientists, community leaders, civil society organisations (CSOs), or individual citizens. Their engagement can contribute to various stages of the data value chain and serve different objectives and contribute to data and policy in many different ways.
The official statistical community also increasingly recognizes the importance of non-state actors in contributing to the inclusiveness of official statistics. For data collection such as censuses and surveys, national statistical offices (NSOs) often partner with CSOs or representatives of marginalized population groups to ensure the inclusiveness of the data and methodology.
Unleashing the full potential of citizens for data, however, faces many challenges. These, for example, include the lack of trust between the state and non-state actors, data quality, sustainability and statistical capacity of CSOs, etc. In this context, the United Nations Statistics Division organized an Expert Group Meeting on Harnessing data by citizens for public policy and SDG monitoring: a conceptual framework in November 2022. The meeting agreed that the development of a framework would be an important next step to help conceptualize the different ways citizens can contribute to data and support the formulation of action points for the community to move forward. The meeting also agreed to establish a Collaborative as a platform for collaboration and exchange of experiences and to advance the work in this area.
The topic was further discussed at the 54th United Nations Statistical Commission in February/March 2023. While the critical role of citizens’ contribution to data was acknowledged, issues of citizen data such as quality, bias, cost and sustainability were all mentioned. The discussion noted that further work needs to be done in this area to conceptualize different types of citizens’ contributions and to develop a normative framework.
In this context, the session will:
• Present the discussions and recommendations around the “normative” framework as mentioned above to enable harnessing citizens data to inform policy.
• Share national experience in engaging citizens in the process of producing and using data
• Solicit interest from different communities especially those from academia in providing support to develop methods that can be used to inform the “normative” framework and on the quality of citizen generate data