Will data improve governance? It depends on the questions we ask

Essay by Uma Kalkar, Andrew Young and Stefaan Verhulst in the Quaterly Inquiry of the Development Intelligence Lab: “…What are the key takeaways from our process and how does it relate to the Summit for Democracy? First, good questions serve as the bedrock for effective and data-driven decision-making across the governance ecosystem. Second, sourcing multidisciplinary and global experts allow us to paint a fuller picture of the hot-button issues and encourage a more nuanced understanding of priorities. Lastly, including the public as active participants in the process of designing questions can help to increase the legitimacy of and obtain a social impact for data efforts, as well as tap into the collective intelligence that exists across society….

A key focus for world leaders, civil society members, academics, and private sector representatives at the Summit for Democracy should not only be on how to promote open governance by democratising data and data science. It must also consider how we can democratise and improve the way we formulate and prioritise questions facing society. To paraphrase Albert Einstein’s famous quote: “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask… for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes”….(More)”.