The RD4C Principles
Principles to guide responsible data handling toward saving children’s lives, defending their rights, and helping them fulfill their potential from early childhood through adolescence.
Engaging and informing individuals and groups affected by the use of data for and about children.
Operationalizing responsible data practices and principles by establishing institutional processes, roles, and responsibilities.
Ensuring the needs and expectations of children, their caregivers, and their communities are prioritized by actors handling data for and about them.
Prevention Of Harms Across The Data Life Cycle
Establishing end-to-end data responsibility by assessing risks during the collecting, storing, preparing, sharing, analyzing, and using stages of the data life cycle.
Aligning the breadth of data collection and duration of data retention with the intended purpose.
Protective Of Children’s Rights
Recognizing the distinct rights and requirements for helping children develop to their full potential.
Identifying and specifying why the data is needed and how the intended or potential benefits relate to improving children’s lives.
Read about our principles at
From our blog
New developments from RD4C.
EventRD4C Commemorates International Data Privacy Day
This piece was originally publushed on The GovLab's Data Stewards Network. Data Privacy Day is an international event celebrated every 28 January to “create awareness about the importance of respecting privacy, safeguarding data, and enabling trust.” Through it, we are reminded just how valuable our data is and the obligation that organizations have to handle it responsibly, ethically, and in accordance with individuals’ rights. The GovLab (one of the partners operating RD4C with UNICEF) has published countless pieces on data privacy and how it is an essential component of data responsibility. To support the conversations happening around the world about this issue, we would like to highlight several publications that we consider especially relevant: Reports: The #Data4COVID19 Review: Assessing the Use of Non-Traditional Data During a Pandemic Crisis: This report, produced with the support of The Knight Foundation, describes the use of non-traditional data from private sources during the COVID-19 pandemic. The piece seeks to unpack some of the challenges around this data, which can include sensitive information, and some of the ways that organizations can mitigate those risks and bolster public trust in their work. New Brief Released: What Is Mobility Data? Where Is It Used?: This brief—which accompanied the release of the report “The Use of Mobility Data for Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic” by The GovLab, Cuebiq, and the Open Data Institute—briefly explains the different types of mobility data and the data privacy implications of them. The goal is to help policymakers better use mobility data while addressing arguments that they could facilitate surveillance. Blogs: Selected Readings on Data Governance: This second piece from our Selected Readings series builds on the knowledge base on improving data governance. While focused on effectiveness and legitimacy, it includes several pieces that explain how approaches that mitigate privacy risks can improve projects and bolster opinion of them. Selected Readings on Personal Data: Security and Use: This piece of our Selected Readings series provides an annotated and curated collection of pieces on personal data. It provides several articles that explain how organizations can promote privacy by design, describe the factors involved in the governance of online personal data, and offer recommendations for data (re)use. The GovLab Index: Privacy and Security: This blog is a series of statistics on privacy and security. It describes public attitudes toward their privacy rights in the United States and globally as well as the kinds of privacy-related behaviors people engage in. Digital Self-Determination Studio Series: In collaboration with the Big Data for Migration Alliance and the International Digital Self Determination (DSD) Network, The GovLab hosted a studio series aimed to unpack what the concept of DSD could mean for migrants and principles for their implementation–emphasizing privacy and personal data protections. Essays, Papers, and Articles: Reimagining data responsibility: 10 new approaches toward a culture of trust in re-using data to address critical public needs: This article by Stefaan Verhulst in Data & Policy looks at the risk around data science and explores ways to address problems such as data privacy. It outlines 10 approaches and innovations for data responsibility in the 21st century, including end-to-end data responsibility; decision provenance; professionalized data stewardship; and group privacy. Corporate Social Responsibility for a Data Age: Published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, this piece by Stefaan Verhulst argues that data can help improve and safe lives but that harnessing it requires a transformation in how companies, governments, and other organizations operate. It emphasizes the importance of robust data protection, citing several prominent cases of data misuse. Operationalizing Digital Self Determination: In this article, Stefaan argues that data, when used responsibly, can offer new opportunities for the public good. However, this potential is limited by data asymmetries, information, and agency asymmetries that limit human potential. As one solution to rebalancing asymmetries that Stefaan provides is to look at alternative consent mechanisms, including those based around “post-consent privacy." How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the GDPR: This guest piece by Ariane Adam in the Data Stewards Network describes the impact of the European Union’s GDPR regulation on open data. Despite concerns that the legislation would prevent the release of data in the name of privacy, the author argues that GDPR “can not only assist in promoting consumer confidence and therefore business growth, but also enable organisations to safely open and share important and valuable datasets. Tools: Data Responsibility Journey: The Data Responsibility Journey for Data Collaboratives is an assessment tool that outlines the opportunities and risks to consider at each stage of the data lifecycle when implementing a data collaborative. It describes several ways that organizations can promote the data rights and data privacy of data subjects. Responsible Data for Children Principles: These principles, produced as part of The GovLab’s collaboration with UNICEF, describe the ways in which governments, communities, and development actors can put child rights at the center of their data activities. The principles of “Prevention of Harms Across the Data Lifecycle” and Protective of Children’s Rights” remind organizations of the unique vulnerabilities around data about children. “Professionally Accountable” reinforces the need to provide mechanisms for redress should violations occur. More information on privacy challenges can be found in RD4C’s tools and case studies. *** These pieces are only a segment of our work overall on data ethics and data responsibility. As we go about encouraging organizations to prioritize data responsibility and data rights in line with the Third Wave of Open Data, we encourage you to follow us at the Data Stewards Network and Open Data Policy Lab.Read more
New PublicationResponsible Data for Children Initiative Releases Report on Responsible Handling of Refugee Children Data in Uganda
This September, the Responsible Data for Children (RD4C) initiative traveled to Uganda for its first-ever studio series to promote the responsible handling of data for and about children. Supported by UNHCR and UNICEF’s Blueprint for Joint Action, itself a commitment to accelerate efforts in line with the Global Compact on Refugees, the studios brought together national and community leaders and others to diagnose data challenges affecting the management of mental health and psychosocial services in refugee settlements in Uganda and develop new solutions to more responsibly and effectively manage data. After posting several shorter reflections on this work on its blog site, RD4C is excited today to announce the release of a full report of its activities. “Responsible Data for Refugee Children in Uganda: Improving Data Systems for Mental Health and Psychosocial Services Through A Studio Series” provides an overview of RD4C’s work over the course of a week, major reflections on the state of data responsibility in Uganda, and recommendations co-developed with UNICEF and UNHCR in Uganda, government officials, community representatives, and refugees themselves. Overview of Events The report begins with several sections: an introduction; an overview of the context in Uganda; an explanation of the field research. These parts of the report provide an explanation of the Responsible Data for Children initiative and the reason for the studio series. With over 1.5 million refugees —over half of which are children—Uganda is the third-largest refugee-hosting country in the world and the largest refugee hosting country in Africa. Many of these refugees report experiencing psychological distress and face challenges in accessing Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support (MHPSS), especially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which has exacerbated the need for MHPSS amongst refugees and host communities. Responding to these circumstances and a long-standing commitment by the Government of Uganda and UNICEF and UNHCR in Uganda to improve mental health and psychosocial services for refugee children in the country, RD4C hosted a series of workshops and focus groups. RD4C structured these engagements—held with national leaders, service providers, adolescent refugees, and others—as conversations around the Data Lifecycle. An abstraction that explains the opportunities and challenges in how data is translated from insight into action, the lifecycle includes several parts: Planning: Defining specific objectives of a data activity; Collection: Gathering data directly from the field or collating it; Processing: Removing irrelevant or inaccurate information; Sharing: Exchanging data and other information with relevant collaborators; Analyzing: Assessing the data to extract insights; Using: Acting on the insights derived. Figure: The Stages of the Data Lifecycle The studios also made use of the Responsible Data for Children Principles as a guide for the discussion. Speaking on the value of being Participatory, Professionally Accountable, People-Centric, Preventative of Harms, Proportional, Protective of Children’s Rights, and Purpose-Driven, RD4C encouraged participants to think critically and creatively about the challenges they face and ways to address them. Findings UNICEF and UNHCR staff go through participant's inputs on the data lifecycle Through discussions facilitated in Kampala, Isingiro, and the Nakivale Refugee Settlement, the participants were able to identify major needs at each stage of the data lifecycle. These needs ranged from challenges in planning—including the need for coordination and cohesion at the national and district level—and collection—including a desire to make use of a unique identifier for each child. Participants spoke about the need for a common taxonomy and common tools during discussions on processing and the importance of exploratory and descriptive analysis in the analysis phase. In all, the discussions surface 17 major findings about data’s use to address mental health and psychosocial services in Uganda’s refugee settlements. RD4C and UNICEF and UNHCR Uganda discussed these points and validated the issues raised. Together, the partners sought to identify three of these findings to further pursue over the next 3–6 months. Solutions and Recommendations On Friday, 23 September, RD4C and its partners, UNICEF and UNHCR, hosted its final workshop focused on ideating solutions to the most pressing challenges identified in the previous studios, interviews, and community focus groups. After some internal deliberation and validating the decision with the studio participants, the partners identified the following three priorities as being the most important and feasible to address: The Need for a Taxonomy for MHPSS Data: How can data be more consistently categorized, collected, analyzed, stored and used, particularly one that distinguishes mental health from psychosocial wellbeing in a useful fashion? The Value of a Data Catalog and Directory: How can MHPSS service providers datasets be accessed, used or reused more responsibly as per the principles of responsible data for children and requirements around personal data protection? Responsible Data Governance: How can data be more responsibly managed to promote the rights and welfare of child refugees? Through structured brainstorming, studio participants identified several ways to address these needs that made use of existing resources and capacities. For achieving a taxonomy, for example, participants focused on engaging the existing MHPSS working group to coordinate service provider organizations. For creating a data catalog, the discussion focused on using an ongoing process by the Ministry of Gender Labour & Social Development to conduct a comprehensive data needs assessment. For data governance, meanwhile, participants thought an expert group composed of existing practitioners could help identify best practices. *** More information on each of these elements can be found in the report, available here. We will be checking in with our colleagues in Uganda in several months to see how the results of this work have been deployed and what progress has been made. In the meanwhile, we encourage anyone interested in this work to contact us at [email protected]Read more
New PublicationResponsible Data for Children Releases Slides for Self-Guided Training
The Responsible Data for Children (RD4C) initiative—a collaboration between The GovLab and UNICEF to promote the more responsible handling of data for and about children—has spent much of 2022 developing ways to socialize and operationalize the principles that put the best interests of children and a child rights approach at the center of our data activities.. From publishing new case studies that provide detail on what a responsible data approach looks like in action to supporting UNICEF and UNHCR country offices in helping them implement a responsible data for children approach to their operations to expanding its offerings in different languages, we’ve sought to help organizations understand what responsible data for children means and how they can realize it in their day-to-day operations. Today, RD4C is continuing this work with self-guided training. Based on the tutorials offered to UNICEF staff in early 2022, these slides are a resource for organizations seeking to understand ways to operationalize the RD4C principles and implement the RD4C tools. It dives into each principle—Participatory; Professionally Accountable; People-Centric; Preventative of Harms Across the Data Lifecycle; Proportional; Protective of Children’s Rights; and Purpose-Driven. It provides real-life examples from the field about how they can be realized in practice as well as explanations of how different tools can help organizations in this goal. It closes with a handful of discussion questions that can be used by organizations to think about these issues. Organizations interested in sharing their experience with these slides can contact the RD4C at [email protected] For those of you who would like to view the tutorials, a recording is now available on our YouTube page.Read more
EventResponsible Data for Children in Abu Dhabi: Responsible integrated data systems in early childhood development
On 15 November, the Responsible Data for Children (RD4C) team participated in the Abu Dhabi Child Data Symposium 2022 organised by Abu Dhabi’s Early Childhood Authority (ECA). ECA has used the RD4C resources to ensure their integrated data system handles early childhood development (ECD) data responsibly. In many ways, life is a story and early childhood sets its tone. It is an essential first chapter in a powerful book, one critical to providing strong and equal foundations to children's lives. Ensuring every child has the best possible start in life, however, entails understanding a child as a whole. To do so, ECD actors from sectors such as health, education, nutrition and child protection need to bring together all the pieces of information they have on a specific child's overall growth, development and well-being, regardless of the services they receive. Once these bits of data are integrated responsibly, data has the potential to generate actionable insights on children's needs and drive targeted public interventions. It is in this spirit that ECA has recently launched the Abu Dhabi Child Insights System Program. With the cross-sectoral data obtained, ECA seeks to generate two types of insights: macro-level insights to understand state-wide ECD challenges and develop informed policies for the Emirate; and micro-level targeted insights identifying children in need and enhancing the day-to-day support offered by practitioners. With this two-pronged approach, ECA hopes to maximise the use of data and optimise child development and wellbeing. Because integrated data systems allow the collection, processing, sharing, analysis, and use of information from many ECD programmes, they can generate risks to the children whose data has been captured. Even if aggregated and anonymised, data can pose risks related to the re-identification of children (mosaic theory), or to demographic and group privacy. ECA has used the RD4C resources to design the Child Insights System responsibly, in alignment with the RD4C principles, to ensure the interests of the child are prioritised and the risks of using their data are mitigated. In particular, the Child Insights System is participatory and professionally accountable: The Child Insights System aggregates multiple administrative data sets and involves key government agencies. These actors jointly assess the trends and act upon the outcomes with coordinated measures. This participatory approach ensures that all relevant actors receive the same insights and are aligned on how to enhance children's well-being. Access is limited to accredited users on the basis of criteria such as the user's documented experience of handling sensitive data; or the user's completion of Government credentials on data governance. Access is also reviewed and revoked on a needs basis. By developing clearance mechanisms and hands-on training, ECA relies on responsible and professionally accountable practices. To design its own responsible ecosystem, ECA also aims to learn from international ECD examples. The insightful examples from Children’s Data Network (USA), Centre for Social Data Analytics (New Zealand) and Allegheny County's Department of Human Services (USA), showed how integrated administrative data systems can be built responsibly and how their insights can be leveraged to inform decision-making at programme and policy levels. In the next months, the RD4C team will conduct an assessment of ECA’s best practices and release a RD4C case study. The emerging collaboration between ECA and RD4C is an opportunity to shed light on government-led RD4C practices in the region and on the importance of responsible data systems from the early stages of life. [Image credit: Piero Olliaro]Read more
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The RD4C initiative is a joint endeavor between UNICEF and The GovLab at New York University to highlight and support best practice in our work; 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 work is intended to address practical considerations across the data lifecycle, including routine data collection and one-off data collections; and compliments work on related topics being addressed by the development community such as guidance on specific data systems and technologies, technical standardization, and digital engagement strategies.
Additional tools and materials are coming soon and will be posted on this website as they become available. Join the conversation to receive regular updates.