Behind the scenes

News and views

Welcome to this new initiative: Connected by data!

It almost goes without saying that data and AI are not working for us at the moment. The past few decades have seen an explosion in the availability of data, driven both by the web and the ability to put sensors in everything. But we are still, as a society, getting to grips with what this means for us, and how to manage its impact so it helps, rather than harms us.

I believe we need to put community at the centre of our data narratives, practices and policies to address the problems we’re seeing.

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Our work at CONNECTED BY DATA is about improving data governance, so that organisations are more effective at making decisions about data towards justice, equity and sustainability. We believe this means that data governance needs to be collective, democratic, participatory, deliberative and powerful. This post unpicks what these terms mean in practice.

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On a short family holiday just before I started at Connected by Data, the one bit of holiday reading I managed to finish (from the ever-optimistic stack of 5 books I carted around) was Rajesh Veeraraghavan’s new book ‘Patching development: Information Politics and Social Change in India’.

The book is the product of years of in-depth study and ethnographic field-work looking at the implementation of social audits within the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREGA) scheme in Andhra Pradesh, India. I’d got hold of a copy of it not only because I’ve heard snippets of the story of the field work from Rajesh when we’ve talked over the last few years, but also it just so happens I spent time looking at the creation of NREGA in an undergraduate studies module on the politics of India in 2005, so it’s a topic I’ve loosely followed over the years.

However, what I hadn’t expected was to find just how useful the story of regulating the ‘last mile’ delivery of a policy offering rural families 100 days of manual labour a year might be to the work thinking about the design of participatory data governance systems that I would be focussed on in my new job.

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Weeknotes are a combination of updates and personal reflection written on a routine basis