You have pointed to the risks of a “data winter” emerging in the climate field. What are some tangible actions SIOs (or other stakeholders) can take to prevent or address this?

Answered on: April 5, 2024
Answered by:
stefaan-verhulst Stefaan G. Verhulst, Ph.D. Co-Founder Governance Laboratory (GovLab)

The emerging “data winter” signifies an alarming trend where access to vital data for research, policy-making, and innovation faces severe constraints, reminiscent of the AI winters that historically slowed progress in artificial intelligence. To counteract this, Social Impact Organizations (SIOs) and other stakeholders must proactively ensure data’s availability and utility by:

  • Enhancing the demand for data by initiating projects like the “100 questions” for their sector, which not only earmark essential data for impactful decisions but also pinpoint existing data gaps, directing focused efforts towards collection and dissemination.
  • Investing in data stewardship is crucial. By nurturing a dedicated cadre of data stewards equipped with the skills to manage data ethically and efficiently, SIOs can ensure that open data practices become the norm—reliable, sustainable, and ethically grounded.
  • Earning a social license for data reuse is vital for sustaining public trust and backing for data initiatives. This requires transparently communicating data usage practices and aligning them with community values and ethical standards.
  • Advocating for data access to be a cornerstone of the global digital compact. Ensuring that open data principles are integral to international agreements will reinforce the importance of data access on a global scale, promoting collaboration and innovation across borders. 

Highlighting the critical role of data in societal advancement and committing to data stewardship practices will create an environment where data is not just a traded commodity but a key enabler of informed, equitable societal progress.

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