We collect lots of data, but we don’t always collect the data we need. We, for example, don’t know how many children with disabilities are out of school in the world, nor do we know how many women die in childbirth in the poorest countries. We estimate, but often that is not good enough to make the right decision or design good programs. What is being called a high level group has been appointed by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to not only fill in the blanks in the data we need but also to ensure that data can have quality and usability. The group is to come up with ideas of how to make this happen and is bringing together academics, activists, those who manage data for governments and those who put together global numbers. The idea is to bridge the old and new worlds of data, that means linking government statisticians with Silicon Valley developers. In some quarters this is being thought of as a data revolution. All the groups involved have something to contribute to increase the quantity of data so that the holes where data is needed and is not now being collected can be filled, as well as forge the sought after quality and usability so that in the end the data can be put to work to improve people’s lives.
Good ideas don’t always live up to their potential, let’s hope this one does.