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.
From our blog
New developments from RD4C.
Responsible AIRD4C at UNICEF Global Forum on AI for Children
Protecting children is a global responsibility, one that requires organizations around the world to understand the opportunities and challenges posed by new technologies, including rapid advancements in computation and machine learning. From 30 November to 1 December 2021, UNICEF and the Government of Finland are helping spur action on this topic by hosting the Global Forum on AI for Children. Bringing together the foremost policymakers, practitioners, and researchers in a virtual setting, the forum will advance emerging conversations on children’s rights, digital technology policies, and AI systems. One of these conversations will be centered on embedding responsible data for children in the AI ecosystem. In a breakout group on 1 December at 8:45 AM EST // 3:45 GMT+2 titled, “Protecting children’s data, privacy and prioritizing fairness in an AI world,” UNICEF Program Officer and RD4C team member Eugenia Olliaro will participate in a discussion on the RD4C Principles and how they can reduce unwanted and discriminatory bias for children through better policies and practice. She will be joined by Maria Luciana Axente (Responsible AI and AI for Good Lead, PwC), Edson Prestes (Full Professor, Federal University of Rio Grande Sul), and Julia Reuben (Assistant Deputy Director, Allegheny County Children, Youth, and Families). The forum, which is part of UNICEF's AI for Children project, will provide an important space for reflecting on and promoting more responsible handling of data for and about children in the rapidly emerging AI environment. The full forum agenda can be found here and registration is open here. [PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash/Andy Kelly is licensed under CC0]Read more
RD4C ToolkitLaunch: 22 Questions to Assess Responsible Data for Children (RD4C)
ACCESS THE TOOL HERE Around the world and across domains, institutions are using data to improve service delivery for children. Data for and about children can, however, pose risks of misuse, such as unauthorized access or data breaches, as well as missed use of data that could have improved children’s lives if harnessed effectively. The RD4C Principles — Participatory; Professionally Accountable; People-Centric; Prevention of Harms Across the Data Life Cycle; Proportional; Protective of Children’s Rights; and Purpose-Driven — were developed by the GovLab and UNICEF to guide responsible data handling toward saving children’s lives, defending their rights, and helping them fulfill their potential from early childhood through adolescence. These principles were developed to act as a north star, guiding practitioners toward more responsible data practices. Today, The GovLab and UNICEF, as part of the Responsible Data for Children initiative (RD4C), are pleased to launch a new tool that aims to put the principles into practice. 22 Questions to Assess Responsible Data for Children (RD4C) is an audit tool to help stakeholders involved in the administration of data systems that handle data for and about children align their practices with the RD4C Principles. The tool encourages users to reflect on their data handling practices and strategy by posing questions regarding: Why: the purpose and rationale for the data system; What: the data handled through the system; Who: the stakeholders involved in the system’s use, including data subjects; How: the presence of operations, policies, and procedures; and When and where: temporal and place-based considerations. The 22 Questions provide a framework through which users can assess their current efforts, as well as concrete recommendations for bolstering data responsibility by mitigating risks of both misuse and missed use of data. Interested in organizing n responsible data for children audit consultation with the RD4C team? Want to receive a tutorial on how to implement the audit tool? Contact us at rd4c [at] thegovlab.org to explore opportunities for collaboration toward making the RD4C Principles more actionable at your institution.Read more
Code of EthicsData for Children Collaborative Designs Responsible Data Solutions for Cross-Sector Services
Reposted from Data.org Saving children’s lives, defending children’s rights, and helping children fulfill their full potential. With goals as ambitious and admirable as this, it goes without saying that the best interests of kids are always put first. Right? Maybe, but the Data for Children Collaborative isn’t leaving it to chance. Housed at Edinburgh Futures Institute, the Data for Children Collaborative is a unique partnership between UNICEF, the Scottish government, and the University of Edinburgh that is focused on not just using data to drive outcomes for children, but building safeguards, resources, and protocols to make sure that data is used ethically, responsibly, and transparently. The Challenge The Edinburgh-based Collaborative looks at the big, seemingly intractable problems our global society faces through a lens of impact and intervention for children. From population health and poverty to COVID-19 response and climate change, how these issues affect children is nuanced and requires an equally nuanced approach. As organizations seek to tackle these challenges, the Collaborative serves as a matchmaker, bringing together academic expertise and practical know-how to utilize the power of data to keep children safe, healthy, and thriving. To harness that power effectively and responsibly, though, data security and responsibility are paramount, says Alessandra Fassio, the advocacy and relations manager for the Data for Children Collaborative. Photo by UNICEF “What I was really interested in was that ‘data for good’ ethics piece of the puzzle. Because we’re working for children, obviously they’re a vulnerable group and often don’t have insight about how data about them is being used,” she said. “Ethics is the buzzword, and everyone is talking about it but there is very little practical implementation on how to do it.” That is the question that the Collaborative set out to answer: how do we define and support strong data ethics in a way that ensures it is no longer an afterthought? How do we empower organizations to make it their priority? The Solution How? Make it easier and more intuitive. Fassio, Data for Children Collaborative Director Alex Hutchison, and the rest of their five-person team set out to create a roadmap for data responsibility. They started with their own experiences and followed the lifecycle of a non-profit project from conception to communicating results. The journey begins – for project leaders and for the Collaborative – with an ethical assessment before any research or intervention has been conducted. The assessment calls on project teams to reflect on their motivations and ethical issues at the start, midpoint, and results stages of a project, ensuring that the priority stakeholder remains at the center. Some of the elements are directly tied to data, like data collection, security, and anonymization, but the assessment goes beyond the hard data and into its applications and analysis, including understanding stakeholder landscape and even the appropriate language to use when communicating outputs. For the Collaborative, that priority is children. But they’ve designed the assessment, which maps across to UNICEF’s Responsible Data for Children (RD4C) toolkit, and other responsible innovation resources to be adaptable for other sectors. “We wanted to make it really accessible for people with no background in ethics or data. We wanted anyone to be able to approach it,” Fassio said. “Because it is data-focused, there’s actually a very wide application. A lot of the questions we ask are very transferable to other groups.” The same is true for their youth participation workbook – another resource in the toolkit. The team engaged young people to help co-create the process, staying open to revisions and iterations based on people’s experiences and feedback. Photo by UNICEF Though that process of iteration and reflection is ongoing, Hutchison has been pleasantly surprised by the willingness of people to engage with and deploy the tools in meaningful ways. “I think there’s a broad acceptance across the technology sector that ethics is recognized as something that’s really pivotal,” she said. “We’ve been constantly really impressed with how well people engage with the ethics assessment that we’ve built, rather than seeing it as ‘oh, here’s something else that needs to be done. They’re really welcoming the fact that it can add value to their project.” The Takeaway Like the expression measure twice, cut once, the major argument that the Data for Children Collaborative is making is that ethics isn’t an add-on. Data responsibility and ethics must be built into a project from the get-go. The Collaborative helps connect the right spheres of influence and expertise to ensure that project teams are asking the tough questions and thinking critically about their approach. “Let’s get all the right people around the table, look at the question we’re trying to solve for, and ask ourselves, is data the right way for us to do this?” Fassio asks. “It’s about designing in an ethical way. Building it in from the start is a more proactive way and it then lends itself to being less of a blocker. There’s a misconception about ethics trying to pause innovation or stop innovation from happening and that’s not the case.” That frontloaded work takes time, but the results make it worthwhile in the end. They advise project teams to work at their own pace, never hesitating to ask questions and lean on colleagues with relevant experience. When they reflect on the past year and a half of getting the Collaborative launched and underway, they wouldn’t change much, except maybe scaling up faster, knowing now how sorely needed these resources are across the non-profit landscape. Photo by Ruel Saldico But the early results are in, and the toolkit has helped drive responsible social change across several disciplines. The ethical assessment has helped shape the data confidentiality policies around work on HIV. It has influenced the language used in reporting on access to services by children in poverty. And in the latest example, has shaped the design and release of hugely impactful data in the Climate Risk Index, a UNICEF report that global climate activist Greta Thunberg has described as the first comprehensive view of children’s exposure and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Unlike many data projects, where it can take years for change to be felt or heard, Hutchison said, the Climate Risk Index was a powerful moment for the Collaborative to see immediate response and impact. It was a reminder for their team that they’re on the right track, fueling their momentum moving forward as they seek out new partners, aligned funders, and more ways to get their tools into the right hands. Approximately 1 billion children (nearly half of the world’s children) live in extremely high-risk countries. Data from The Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI). “There are so many opportunities for people to do good work with data,” she said. “It’s almost infinite, the examples where this can work and make a difference.”Read more
Responsible Data Towards...Three Take-Aways from the UN World Data Forum
From 3 to 6 October 2021, Bern hosted the Third UN World Data Forum (UNWDF), gathering data experts and scholars from organisations across the world. The event, intended to foster “better data towards achieving the SDGs,” used a combination of virtual and in-person sessions to bring together panellists and participants. The keynote speaker, Microsoft President Brad Smith, confidently asserted that “no matter what the problem may be, data can play an indispensable role in solving it,” while others focused attention on the risks generated by data. Members of the RD4C team attended the conference and share some takeaways relevant to the responsible handling of data for and about children. Three Key Takeaways 1. Build trust in data "How we can really ensure trust in data?" asked Ola Awad, President of Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Like many panellists, she wondered how we can build and maintain trust in the data ecosystem – not only from the public, but broadly among all stakeholders. In this age of rapidly evolving technology, widespread misinformation and scepticism towards institutions, data activities must guarantee a holistic protection of people's data; and it is essential to ensure that the needs and expectations of those affected by the use of their data are respected. The mere participation in a system should not be conflated with trust, as James Lowry, Assistant Professor at City University of New York, noted throughout his address on the issue. 2. Expand opportunities to strengthen data capacity Another series of sessions were dedicated to seeking new approaches to develop capacity for better data. Stakeholders called for building technical know-how and strengthening data literacy at every level. “I believe we should all be data literate,” said Nicolas Kurek, UN Youth Representative. Boosting data literacy implies increasing the data capacity of people – not only data stewards but also non-specialists – as well as ensuring the information is as intelligible and accessible as possible for anyone to make informed decisions. To accelerate the process, responsible, trustworthy, and open data ecosystem should be put in place. 3. Put the interest of people at the centre of data systems Last but not least, the UNWDF, moderated by speakers such as independent journalist Arthur Honegger, reiterated the need to “put data into the hands of citizens.” Partnerships should be people-centric and ensure that the needs, interests, and expectations of individuals are prioritized. Importantly, data should represent everybody and leave no one behind: individuals and groups, including marginalised and vulnerable populations, should always be informed and engaged by those handling data about them. Activities Relevant to RD4C These are only a few overarching takeaways emerging from the UNWDF. The event also highlighted three data-for-development investment initiatives that could provide lessons for actors seeking to use data responsibly to advance children's interests: The Clearinghouse for Financing Development Data, launched by The Bern Network as a platform to track and analyse the state of financing for data and to help countries, donors and development partners identify funding opportunities. The Global Data Facility, World Bank-hosted fund to support fundamentals and frontier data and statistics priorities at the global, regional, national, and community levels. The Complex Risk Analytics Fund (CRAF’d), multilateral financing instrument supported by the UN and an increasing number of governments to expand shared capabilities for using data to better anticipate, prevent, and respond to complex risks in fragile and crisis-affected settings. RD4C to accelerate progress on SDGs While the forum did not focus on children specifically, the discussions highlighted the importance of designing and respecting responsible data practices for vulnerable groups, including children. The Responsible Data for Children (RD4C) initiative advocates for responsible handling of children's data and follows a set of actionable principles to ensure that the best interest of children is put at the centre of data activities. The takeaways outlined above provide useful insight on how the RD4C community can continue to work toward more responsible handling of data for and about children globally. Resources For more information on the RD4C initiative, visit the website. For more information on the Forum see the Summary Report and The Bern Data Compact for the Decade of Action on the SDGs. [Image credit: Piero Olliaro]Read more
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.