By Andreas Pawelke

Winning six championships between 1991 and 1998, the 1990s Chicago Bulls were one of the most successful teams in US sports history. Led by basketball legend Michael Jordan and coached by Phil Jackson, no team has yet topped the Bulls’ 1995–96 NBA season record of 87 wins vs 13 losses.

What does this have to do with data empowerment? Here we’ll use the 1990’s Bulls to explore three emerging mechanisms for data governance, or, more accurately, data stewardship: 1) personal data stores 2) data cooperatives and 3) data trusts. …


Illustrations: Vincent Beck

By Michael Cañares

In our last post, we discussed the importance of having control over our data. Others, meanwhile, have championed the competing model of data ownership. Here, we outline why control, not ownership, provides the surest path towards data empowerment.

Ownership Versus Control

Ownership relates to a full legal claim on property, with the right to exclude others from its use or enjoyment. Control, on the other hand, gives one the capacity to determine the use or management of a property. While interrelated and often conflated, ownership and control are two unique concepts with starkly different implications.

Intuitively, a person who owns…


Illustrations: Vincent Beck

By Michael Cañares

In our last post, we discussed the importance of having control over our data. Others, meanwhile, have championed the competing model of data ownership. Here, we outline why control, not ownership, provides the surest path towards data empowerment.

Ownership Versus Control

Ownership relates to a full legal claim on property, with the right to exclude others from its use or enjoyment. Control, on the other hand, gives one the capacity to determine the use or management of a property. While interrelated and often conflated, ownership and control are two unique concepts with starkly different implications.

Intuitively, a person who owns…


Illustrations: Vincent Beck

By Andreas Pawelke

So far we’ve looked at how access to data can empower people and argued that ensuring people have actionable data is even more critical in the ‘trying times’ we find ourselves in.

In this post, we’re diving deeper into the question of how to exercise control over one’s data, which, as you might recall, we view as the second key element of the data empowerment concept: “the process where people, on their own or with the help of intermediaries, take controlor gain the power to take control — of their data to promote their and…


Illustrations: Vincent Beck

By Michael Cañares

For several months, all has been quiet on the data empowerment blog. Like the rest of the world, we were shocked when the pandemic hit. We put down our pencils, paused our publication schedule and spent time rethinking the topics we wanted to cover. COVID-19 changed everything.

We chose to listen, to hear people’s experiences, and to reflect on the role of data during the pandemic. We followed the advice of Herminia Ibarra to “embrace the “liminal” period” and to reflect on the many voices debating how data should be used in these trying times.

We have…


Illustrations: Vincent Beck

By Andreas Pawelke

In our first two posts we outlined an initial definition of the data empowerment concept and discussed three practical examples of data empowerment. In this post we’re looking at ways to ‘do’ data empowerment. Our aim is to provide those who design, implement, evaluate or fund data for development initiatives with practical guidance on data empowerment.

Some of the practices described below are easy to implement, others require specific expertise. Most of them are currently done by a very few development actors. …


Illustrations: Vincent Beck

By Michael Cañares

It was a humid December afternoon in Banda Aceh, a bustling city in north Indonesia. Two women members of an education reform advocacy group were busy preparing infographics on how the city government was spending its education budget and its impact on service delivery quality in schools. The room was abuzz with questions and apprehension because the next day, the group would present its analysis on the data that they were able to access for the first time to education department officials. The analyses uncovered inefficiencies, poor school performance, ineffective allocation of resources, among others.

While worried…


Illustrations : Vincent Beck

By Michael Cañares

A year ago, an Indonesian artist tweeted that he could give away a car to his fans in exchange for personal information that they needed to enter in an online form. While he probably had good intentions, the act was lambasted in social media for collecting vast amounts of personal data, quite irresponsibly, with no information on how the data would be used, and without asking for consent.

But this is nothing new.

People produce 2.5 billion gigabytes of data per day — while searching for information, writing an email, shopping online or using social media. The…


Illustration : Vincent Beck

By Andreas Pawelke & Michael Cañares

We’ve spent the last six years figuring out how to empower people using data.

As part of that process, we helped set up a data innovation lab and worked across Southeast Asia to find effective ways for people to access data and use it to advance their interests and promote their welfare. We researched different types of data and how to best harness it for international development. …

Data Empowerment

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