'Intermediaries' to play key role in future of data for development

By Kelli Rogers 19 May 2015

Nongovernmental organizations have started to hire more data scientists, but collaboration of analytical capacity should take precedence over competition, experts say.

Increasing data capacity within an organization is not just about hiring the young person who recently graduated with a degree in data science, said Emmanuel Letouzé, director and co-founder of Data-Pop Alliance. It’s also making sure to employ the right mixture of people who collectively understand the history, politics and ethics of data.

The development community is going to see more focused collaboration between different types of organizations that work with data as well as a huge role for the data intermediary — or the person who knows how to translate data to community groups that might not have the same statistical literacy, according to Elizabeth Stewart, research fellow for the Overseas Development Institute.

There are currently two camps — the quant people who can read a spreadsheet and manipulate it, and the specialists who work in areas like health and education.

“You’re already starting to see those barriers coming down,” Stewart said.

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About the author

Kelli Rogers@kellierin

In her role as associate editor, Kelli Rogers helps to shape Devex content around leadership, professional growth and careers for professionals in international development, humanitarian aid and global health. As the manager of Doing Good, one of Devex's highest-circulation publications, she is constantly on the lookout for the latest staffing changes, hiring trends and tricks for recruiting skilled local and international staff for aid projects that make a difference. Kelli has studied or worked in Spain, Costa Rica and Kenya.

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