Data Clarity

by | Jun 27, 2019 | ICT4D, Questions |

Years ago while completing my Masters thesis, I learned (the hard way) writing less more difficult than writing more. Writing less requires more focus, more intent, more discipline, a lot less waffle, but also much more time.

In the West Africa Ebola crisis, it was discovered that the only piece of data required was the temperature of the person. Temperature was the indicator of whether or not the person had the ebola virus or did not. How many agencies working in the crisis collected only one data point? None. Everyone collected more information.

Of course there is a human versus clinical difference here – there is value, no dignity, in being addressed by your name “Hello Amos” rather than “Hello 328”, so while the temperature data point may be the only data point needed for diagnosis, there are likely a few other data points needed to encourage human, not clinical, interaction.

In the work we do, we likely need much less data than we collect, so perhaps a question we should be asking is why are we collecting it? It is much harder to collect less data, only the data we need, because it presupposes we’ve done the hard work of knowing what we need. Yes, additional data may be useful and helpful in the future for other projects or interactions, but then when does ‘more’ end as everything might be useful in the future.

Data minimalisation and collecting only what we need is hard work, but it’s important work.

Photo by Christa Dodoo


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