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.
New VideoTutorials on Responsible Data for Children
In April, the RD4C—a collaboration by UNICEF and The GovLab—hosted a series of tutorials to support UNICEF staff in operationalizing RD4C principles and implementing RD4C tools in ways that built on lessons learned from UNICEF and partners. Led by UNICEF’s Eugenia Olliaro and The Govlab’s Andrew Young, Andrew J. Zahuranec and Marine Ragnet, the two-hour talk brought together UNICEF staff from different parts of the world to learn how they could realize the principles in the areas they work. It then sought to understand possible challenges, gaps, risks, and lingering questions on responsible data for children that UNICEF staff might have encountered in their countries and regions. The event began with an introduction by Mark Hereward, Chief Data Officer at UNICEF, on the need for strengthened governance of data. Following these overviews, Andrew Young and Eugenia Olliaro explained what each RD4C principle means, demonstrating their application in practice through real-life examples from the field. Andrew J. Zahuranec and Marine Ragnet, meanwhile, presented tools that could be used to enforce the principles. The session dove into each principle in detail: The participatory principle involves engaging and informing individuals and groups affected by the use of data for and about children. The team discussed how InForm, an Open Data Kit-based data collection and management tool, illustrated the principle in practice. The tool centralizes dispersed data streams, secures collected data in a common platform, and enables data analysis and visualization. InForm illustrates the participatory principle because any deployment requires connecting disparate sources held by various parties. It calls on agencies to work together to ingest and centralize many data sources instead of having them engage only with their own data systems and data collection processes. A professionally accountable initiative would operationalize responsible data practices and principles by establishing institutional processes, roles, and responsibilities. For example, Afghanistan’s Nutrition Online Database was a web-based information system providing access to aggregated nutrition data to inform planning and service delivery at the national, provincial, and zonal level. Afghanistan and partners provided training to data users to more effectively monitor conditions. Administrators also received manuals with guidance on how to avoid unauthorized access. A people-centric approach is also one that incorporates responsibility by ensuring the needs and expectations of children, their caregivers, and their communities are prioritized by actors handling data for and about them. To demonstrate it in practice, the team used the example of the Aurora Project, a child-protection platform developed by UNICEF Romania with partners. The program was people-centric because its components were crafted in recognition of the influence and importance of not just a child’s experience and needs but also that of their caregivers. Prevention of harms across data lifecycles: Establishing end-to-end data responsibility by assessing risks during the collecting, storing, preparing, sharing, analyzing, and using stages of the data life cycle. UNICEF’s MICS, a series of surveys launched to monitor the status of children around the world, served as a use case for this principle. The MICS team emphasized that ensuring the security of the data was paramount. During survey collecting, they discussed how data collected in the field undergoes rigid checks for quality during the interview process—checking and cross-checking data across the interview. Proportional: Aligning the breadth of data collection and duration of data retention with the intended purpose. This was illustrated through the Childline Kenya case study, a helpline offering services for children subjected to violence or neglect. The Childline case study was considered because the start of each call, the counselor informs the caller that while the discussion will be recorded, all information provided will remain confidential, accessible only by case management personnel, unless it needs to be shared with service providers for a specific, authorized referral. Being protective of children’s rights in programming entails recognizing the distinct rights and requirements for helping children develop to their full potential. Childline Kenya was again used as a use-case to illustrate this principle. The Childline Kenya program installed specific requirements such as letting only approved staff members have the necessary digital credentials for accessing, changing, or printing certain case records and creating an audit trail when a user edits, deletes, or prints a client record—but not when a user only accesses the record. Leading a purpose-driven initiative entails identifying and specifying why the data is needed and how the intended or potential benefits relate to improving children’s lives. InForm provides a good example for it because the program was developed with a “user-centric design approach” to ensure that the tool would be useful for compiling and visualizing data. This fact is evident not only from the platform’s origins, which sought to respond to a clear, pressing need to compile data, but to the way UNICEF sought to respond to that need. The session then included reflections from the field with Mac Glovinsky at the Learning Passport. Mac discussed his experiences with Responsible Data for Children and how it had helped advance his work. He spoke to how the RD4C principles could be realized in the field, honing in on some of the success and challenges encountered. The second part of the session was not recorded, to give UNICEF staff the opportunity to add to the conversation by exchanging on their respective experiences with RD4C in the field. During breakout sessions, participants shared present and past work with each other, discussed the challenges they faced, and posed questions to the RD4C team. This input will inform RD4C work and future training programmes as it enters its third year of operation. UNICEF field offices interested in sharing their experience and learning, can contact the RD4C team to be featured in a blog post. Please contact us 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
EventThe GovLab and UNICEF Host Webinar on Using Tools to Realize Responsible Data for Children
On 8 March 2022, the Responsible Data for Children (RD4C) team—a collaboration between The GovLab and UNICEF—hosted a special 75-minute webinar on the RD4C principles and tools meant to enable the responsible handling of data for and about children. Led by The GovLab’s Stefaan Verhulst and Andrew J. Zahuranec and UNICEF’s Eugenia Olliaro and Robert MacTavish, attendees included practitioners from UNICEF, its partners, along with academics working on issues related to children’s data protection. Over the course of the session, participants learned in-depth information about how the RD4C tools can help them in the areas they work. The webinar began with an explanation the Responsible Data for Children initiative hopes to achieve. Focusing on the eight reasons why responsible data for children matters, Stefaan discussed why child welfare advocates should pay attention to data. He described how children are at the forefront of datafication, the fact that children have less agency, that data violations can result in lifelong loss of trust, and other issues. Eugenia subsequently explained the role that the RD4C principles—participatory, professionally accountable, people-centric, prevention of harms across the data lifecycle, proportional, protective of children’s rights, and purpose-driven—could play in addressing these challenges. Developed through a review of literature and case studies, the principles steer the user toward best practices on responsible data handling for children. Following this initial stage-setting, Andrew and Stefaan introduced the different RD4C tools, which seek to operationalize the principles in an user-centric manner, and explained how they could be used. In particular, they discussed: The RD4C Data Ecosystem Mapping Tool, which intends to help users to identify the systems generating data about children and the key components of those systems. The RD4C Decision Provenance Mapping, intended to provide a way for actors designing or assessing data investments for children to identify key decision points and determine which internal and external parties influence those decision points. The Ethical Assessment – Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF, that “forms part of our safe data ecosystem, alongside data management and data protection policies and practices.” The RD4C Opportunity and Risk Diagnostic; which provides organizations with a way to take stock of the RD4C principles and how they might be realized as an organization reviews a data project or system. The 22 Questions to Assess Responsible Data for Children, used for rapidly assessing initiatives or systems that handle data for and about children against the RD4C Principles. In the final 30 minutes, Alessandra Fassio of Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF shared with participants how her institution has used RD4C tools to support its work, allowing participants to see how the tools are operationalized in a specific context. The event closed with a question and answer session moderated by Robert, during which the RD4C team emphasized the importance of supporting broader collaboration on data responsibility and child welfare issues. The team invited attendees to share their work and experiences. If you work in these areas and would like to share your experience and learning, we would be delighted to host a guest blog featuring your best practices. Furthermore, we are hoping to encourage greater awareness of the various resources and research that exist in the field by expanding our Selected Readings page. If either of these items interest you, please contact us at [email protected] For those of you who would like to view the webinar, a recording is now available on our YouTube page.Read more
Lessons from the FieldNew Video on Lessons from the Field: Aurora Project
The Responsible Data for Children (RD4C) initiative is committed to highlighting innovative, data-driven approaches to promote the responsible handling of data for and about children. This week, building on its case study published last year, the RD4C team interviewed the Aurora Project’s Voichita Tomus to understand how she and her colleagues are using data to improve children’s lives. The eleven-minute video allows Voichita to talk at length about the Aurora Project, a child-protection platform developed by UNICEF Romania and its partners. The tool enables social workers and community health care providers to diagnose and monitor vulnerabilities experienced by children and their families. Through the administration of a child protection questionnaire, the system supports the determination of a minimum package of services needed by children and their families. It also enables child protection evaluation and planning work at the national level. In the video linked above, Voichita talks about this work and answers important questions about the data Aurora uses, the most serious challenges it faces, what enables its success. We encourage those interested in responsible data for children to watch to understand how real-world practitioners are applying the RD4C principles to the areas they work. Follow our blog to read our next “Lessons from the Field” and join the RD4C conversation to receive regular updates.Read more
New PublicationEight reasons responsible data for and about children matters
This week, the peer-to-peer government learning platform apolitical featured an article by Stefaan Verhulst and Andrew Young of The GovLab highlighting the rationale behind the Responsible Data for Children (RD4C) initiative. The article lists eight reasons why responsible data for children matters. The article starts from the following observation: “The relationship between the datafication of everyday life and child welfare has generally been under-explored. This neglect is a lost opportunity, and also poses a risk to children, who are in many ways at the forefront of the steady incursions of data into our lives.” As a response, the article outlines eight reasons why child welfare advocates should pay more attention to data, and why we need a framework for responsible data collection and use for children including: Children are at the forefront of datafication: Today’s children are the first generation to grow up amid the rapid datafication of virtually every aspect of life. Children have less agency: Unlike adults, children typically do not have full agency to make decisions about their participation in programmes or services that may generate and record personal data. Even aggregated data can be dangerous: Aggregated, anonymized data is not a panacea. There continues to be risk of re-identification through the mosaic effect and other challenges. Data violations can result in lifelong loss of trust: When data is mishandled data subjects lose trust in institutions.. This, in turn, can reduce the uptake of essential services, and stunt benefits of technology. Children’s interests can be overlooked: As technologies are implemented and the data volume increases, existing protections to protect children may be overlooked. AI and algorithmic bias pose particular risks: AI can expedite processes but contain hard-to-detect biases that result in real adverse effects. These risks are only heightened when it comes to children. Risk of revisiting trauma: Children served by organizations may have suffered trauma. Asking children to provide data or register for services may revisit such trauma. The relationship between privacy and children’s self development Having the freedom and autonomy to experiment with different identities, without prying eyes or chilling dataveillance, is important for children’s self-development. Read Part 1 and Part 2 of the article. Those interested in learning more or partnering with us can contact rd4c [at] thegovlab.org. To join the RD4C conversation and be alerted to future releases, subscribe at this link. Cover image by Alex Radelich/Unsplash is licensed under CC0.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.