We have come across many NGOs and UN Agencies, who either have separate departments for Information Management or have made it an integral part of their programming. As digitisation no longer feels like an option for an organisation, we reached out to our friends at Data Friendly Space to help us understand few basic aspects of Information/Data Management.
Data Friendly Space (DFS) is a non-profit organisation based in the United States with a global presence. DFS’ guiding principle is to improve information management and analysis capacity, tools and processes in the humanitarian and development community to enable better informed and more targeted assistance. DFS is the primary architect and technical lead of DEEP (thedeep.io), the Data Entry Exploration Platform — an open source humanitarian secondary data review and analysis platform..
- What is Data Management?
Data management, especially in the humanitarian context, consists of a wide array of functions, including but not limited to:
2. How has data management in the humanitarian sector evolved?
In recent years, data management is much more widely recognised as being an important function and critical to informed decision-making. This is in part due to the increase in use of personal computing, storage, email, and other digital dissemination formats including maps and rich interactive web content. Meanwhile, basic data management tools such as Excel or Access are now accessible by almost everyone.
There is an abundance of data and it has now become easier to store, share and consume data than ever before. Recently there has also been a major increase in the development of online tools for data collection, analysis, and rapid information sharing.
3. Is it necessary to have a technical background to handle data management?
Data management consists of a wide array of technical functions, and therefore an effective data management unit will usually consist of a number of different staff with varied and complementary skills, for example a database IT expert working alongside a mapping and graphics expert.
4. How non-tech program managers can level up their skills in data management?
It has never been easier to learn and acquire new skills and knowledge, due to the availability of online training materials and video. Many courses and tutorials are free to access and creating a routine setting aside a few minutes each day to watch a tutorial, can quickly result in the acquisition of new skills relatively effortlessly.
5. What are your top pieces of advice on data management for non-tech program managers?
- Check and check again for mistakes, at every step.
- Ensure data is confidential and anonymised and that, no harm can be done. e.g. by publicly sharing survey data without removing individual household GPS coordinates, leading to the identification of vulnerable individuals.
- Ensure transparency and effective communication about the limitations of your data.
- Keep learning new skills, and about new tools and applications.
- Share and communicate with others and learn from the existing best (and worst) practices. Try to reuse and build upon existing tools and learn from the mistakes made by others.