could we collect less?

‘What’s your full name?’ ‘What’s your date of birth?’

We’re booking a family trip to the dentist and I’m listening in on the conversation. I’m struck by how we are being asked for our name and date of birth, but nothing about our dental history. I wonder why my date of birth is needed for an appointment. Is it to check if I’m an adult or child? If so, in 2022, asking ‘are you born before 2004 would suffice. Wouldn’t it? It’s not like I get a birthday card from everyone I’ve told my birth date.

When I register our kids to join an after school club, why do they require my address? And then my address again when I go to pay?

In the humanitarian aid world, we collect an enormous amount of data about the people receiving it. Why do we do it? How is it used? It wasn’t always like this. What prompted us to require the date of birth of a person before they could receive aid? Does it help us deliver aid? Or is it for our statistics?

Sometimes it is wise to pause and consider the data we are collecting and ask if we ‘really’ need it. Could we collect less? Keep asking this question until the answer is ‘no’.

Photo by Thomas Lefebvre


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