Driven by Fear and Fraud

by | Jun 18, 2019 | Development, ICT4D, Questions |

Collecting data. We all do it. But why? Are we clear on what the data is for? Is it purposeful or are we just doing it because we’re told to or think it might be useful? Does the data have a purpose beyond fear and fraud?

There are principles and movements to minimise data collection which sound good. These push us towards thinking about the purpose of the data we do collect and to only collect that which we need.

And yet, sometimes it is good to consider the underlying assumptions we are working with. In welfare systems and the humanitarian space there appears to be the underlying assumption that fraud is significant, which says something about our fundamental beliefs about people, especially those who are less fortunate in our society. Due to the assumption of wide spread fraud, we build systems and collect data to monitor it and hopefully prevent it. This also results in some unintended consequences and a lot of data.

But do we know what the rates of fraud are and where they occur in the humanitarian space? Do the rates of fraud justify the systems, the data collection, and the efforts we put in place?

Or are we being driven by the fear of ‘what if’ and the negative media attention if fraud might be discovered?

Collecting data comes with a cost for the agency collecting it and the person from whom it is collected. If the fraud and abuse rates are low, can we be more targeted in how we address these issues? Or could the efforts we currently are spending be more impactful if used elsewhere?

Are we clear on the problem we are trying to solve and for whom?

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