The Burden of Data on Civil Society

The Burden of Data on Civil Society

You’ve probably pondered how corporations manage to target you with a product you’re interested in precisely. They employ data, which is information that has been gathered. Advertisers utilize data to target their adverts better, make sales, and shape our buying habits. It is the new oil. Using it can help us better comprehend the world around us and how it operates. There is, however, a price for this information. The burden of data on civil society is undeniably present; a new software, website, or even a simple account signup requires us to give up our personal information. With so much information coming at us, it’s hard to know what should be done with it. 

Data is becoming increasingly central to the work of civil society organizations. Collecting, analyzing, and using data is essential to effectively advocating for change and measuring impact. But the burden of data can be overwhelming, especially for small organizations with limited resources. Data can be a heavy burden for civil society organizations in several ways:

  1. The costs of collecting and storing data can be prohibitive.
  2. The time needed to analyze data can take away from other important tasks.
  3. The risk of data breaches and cyber-attacks is a real and present danger.

The weight of data on civil society is a burden that must be addressed. Still, with the right resources and support, it is possible to turn data into an advantage that’ll allow organizations to more effectively determine the cause of problems and find solutions. 

Nonprofits are made to find ways to answer humanitarian or environmental needs. These organizations take it upon themselves to serve scientific, religious, educational, and/or charitable purposes. Nonprofits tend to help most third-world countries, and one of the many ways this is done is by the usage of digital data. According to Travis Korte, “Nontraditional data sources can help governments in developing countries supplement traditional data collection infrastructure, as in the case of the crisis mapping effort that draws from social media information to aid first responders during emergencies.” Developing countries should take advantage of new opportunities. Data has to afford to aid them, and nonprofit organizations can help make this happen. 

As technology is continuously becoming increasingly advanced and used worldwide, it is very important for everyone to keep up with it in civil society. “What you need to manage your digital resources better is not technological—it’s behavioral, it’s human. Good technology helps, but it’s really about behavior,” according to Lucy Bernholz. Her article’s point, in the end, is that human behavior is a key factor in good or bad technology. Data can become a burden to civil society only if poorly managed. Organizations tend to store data they’ve collected on Google sites that are somewhat easily accessible to just about anyone. This can become very dangerous once the information is in the hands of someone to whom it does not belong. 

To stop data from being poorly guarded, nonprofit/ civil society organizations need to learn how to protect their information better. There is an increasing burden and demand for NGOs/CSOs to become “more data-led.” Organizations have voiced concerns on how they would keep their data safe, making them reluctant to become more data led but with a complete understanding of data in our world today, there would be no other choice. Some valuable practices to better guard data are to build knowledge and skills for communities who have their concerns to reclaim control over their digital presence and futures and ease participation in data and strengthen digital collectivization opportunities (the data economy lab). 

The source of data varies, ranging from online communication, location, health, household devices, and especially social media. “Datafication” is becoming increasingly pervasive in society. With this rapid growth, everyone should learn to keep themselves safe, especially organizations that store data. Although data can be a burden, its correct usage, and storage guarantee that organizations can achieve their objectives. To NGOs, measuring and quantifying the work they do for communities is very important. Considering everything, it’s only fitting to become familiar with data to turn it into an advantage that’ll allow organizations to more effectively determine the cause of problems and find solutions.


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