The GovLab and UNICEF Launch Responsible Data for Children (RD4C) Initiative

Andrew J. Zahuranec
Nov 21 · 3 min read

Thirty years ago today, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is now the most widely ratified treaty in the world.

The Responsible Data for Children website

The world has achieved enormous progress in achieving the treaty’s goals, but new threats have emerged. Today’s children are quantified to an unprecedented degree. In our increasingly datafied environment, there is a clear need to develop and disseminate responsible approaches for handling data for and about children and upholding the Convention on the Rights of the Child in our data age.

The GovLab’s Andrew Yong presents the RD4C website. Photo credit: Andrew J. Zahuranec

On Tuesday, to address this need, The GovLab and UNICEF launched the Responsible Data for Children initiative (RD4C) at UNICEF House. Through a brief presentation and panel discussion, UNICEF’s Robert MacTavish and The GovLab’s Andrew Young described the newly released RD4C website, Selected Readings, Synthesis Report, and RD4C Principles, as well as their hopes for how these and future outputs could strengthen data responsibility.

RD4C intends to support best practice in data responsibility; identify challenges and develop practical tools to assist practitioners in evaluating and addressing them; and encourage a broader discussion on actionable principles, insights, and approaches for responsible data management. The project’s three-part research methodology involved an extensive desk review of relevant literature, key informant interviews with UNICEF personnel and others working in the space, and three field observation visits to UNICEF country offices in Romania, Kenya, and Afghanistan.

“RD4C is an effort both to understand existing good practices and how other practices can be improved. It is a set of public goods to show how we can be more responsible in the way we handle data for and about children,” said Andrew Young in his opening remarks.

The GovLab’s Stefaan Verhulst (left) and UNICEF’s Vidhya Ganesh (right) discuss data responsibility. Photo credit: UNICEF Data, https://bit.ly/35o5dHW

Later, Stefaan Verhulst participated in a panel with UNICEF’s Vidhya Ganesh (Director, Division of Analysis, Planning, and Monitoring), and Daniel Couture (Chief Information Officer, ICT for Development), moderated by Sumaira Chowdhury (Chief of Child Protection, OIC). There, the panelists noted the project’s potential and how it could build awareness regarding the need for special attention to data issues affecting children — especially in an age of changing technology and data linkage. Through reports, case studies, and other materials, the project would engage with governments, communities, and development actors to put the best interests of children and a child rights approach at the center of data activities.

“Many of the children receiving services are the most vulnerable,” Stefaan noted. “We have to design data systems that don’t revictimize the child.”

The event closed with participants once again highlighting the project’s website. There, visitors can find initial outputs from the project’s desk and field research efforts. Additional tools and materials are coming soon and will be posted on the website as they become available. Join the RD4C conversation to receive regular updates.

Data Stewards Network

Responsible Data Leadership to Address the Challenges of the 21st Century

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