Libraries as Champions of the Data Revolution

The “Data Revolution” is emerging as a trending topic among development practitioners. Some say data will solve the most pressing development issues. But making the data revolution a reality requires that information and data be available to all people, civil organizations, and government representatives.

But this seems to be a limited — and limiting — vision of what development could look like. Access alone is not sufficient. People need skills and services to effectively use information. And information intermediaries (such as librarians, community leaders, and media) are key to synthesizing and interpreting data to translate it into useful information.

“Data is not a silver bullet. Nobody will emerge a hero of the data revolution by going it alone,” said  Olav Kjorven, special advisor to the UNDP administrator on the post-2015 development agenda.

Libraries around the world are powerful partners  in delivering services — including literacy and ICT skills training — that enable human development. They curate local information and content such as traditional stories, local history, data, and maps.

And libraries not only provide a place where people can access information — they also promote the development of local knowledge. For example, in Ukraine and in other countries, libraries serve as maker-spaces that provide community members with the necessary tools so they can create their own content and promote innovation. Libraries can also help governments and people communicate, organize, assess and understand data that is critical to development.

Although data is a tool for development, there are challenges at the local and international levels that might hinder the impact that it could eventually have. We not only need to make information and data available, but we must  guarantee that citizens are getting the information that they need.

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