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.
Lessons from the FieldInterview with Martha Sunda, Executive Director of Childline Kenya
Since its launch, the Responsible Data for Children (RD4C) initiative has studied the use of data for and about children in humanitarian settings to offer insights on promising, responsible data practice. Childline Kenya, one of the first of these studies to be published, remains today as an important example of responsible data practices. To understand how Childline Kenya has changed since we published our case study, we interviewed Martha Sunda, Executive Director of Childline Kenya. The conversation, summarized below, touched on how Childline operates, the challenges and opportunities it faces, and potential lessons that could help other practitioners in handling children’s data responsibly. What is Childline Kenya and what data is involved in it? Childline Kenya is an NGO that operates a national child helpline service. It works closely with the Government of Kenya as its strategic partner, as well as with other stakeholders, to provide support to children subjected to any kind of violence or neglect. The organization offers counseling, psychotherapy, play and art therapy, family therapy and legal support. It also provides linkage to other child protection service providers for additional support. . According to Martha, this programming is based on three pillars. The first one is a preventive approach related to creating awareness of child protection and everybody’s role in protecting children. The second one is focused on the importance of accessing child protection services in the fastest way possible. This is done by providing the helpline channels as well as by informing the public about other ways to seek support, such as the Children’s Office or the Police. Finally the third pillar revolves around response to reported concerns. While people can request support on these three pillars through various platforms including WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and email, a central part of its outreach is a toll-free telephone service. This service is available from anywhere in Kenya twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. This is important to provide people with a variety of platforms they can use, depending on which one they feel most comfortable with or have access to. More than reporting the issue, Childline Kenya seeks to solve it. “Whenever we have an opportunity we keep creating awareness on the issue.” “Our goal is to have these cases that are reported responded to efficiently and effectively in the best interest of the child. [...] Therefore, the data that we get to [...] [guide] our work is around the child themselves. What are the safeguarding or protection issues that they have? Who has perpetrated them? Are there any caregivers in the scenario, [...] any other siblings? Do these children go to school now or not? Are there any developmental issues that we need to take note of [...]?” “We are also able to determine what else needs to be done, or whether we need to fast track some things. [...] So that also helps to determine what needs to be done to be able to assist this child in the best way possible.” She added that the organization makes sure that the data processed by them is restricted to the minimum necessary to help the child or for advocacy and programming purposes. What are the most serious challenges you face in promoting responsible use of data related to the calls you receive through your helpline? As the helpline service is co-managed by Childline Kenya and the Government of Kenya, Martha explained that the responsibility over the data processed is also shared. In this sense, Childline Kenya is not able to control how the government uses the data and vice versa. She argued that can be limiting especially in cases where either partner feels that a certain level of detail should not have been released. Even though this situation is rare, Martha stated that, “it remains a risk [...] that needs to be sorted out. We have tried to mitigate [that], so in the system we know who exactly is [...] in there at what level and we also keep an audit trail in the helpline system. So in case someone has edited something or downloaded something we have the audit trail and we are therefore able to hold them responsible.” She expanded on this point by explaining several challenges. First, she noted that the linkage to the government information system also creates a problem related to feedback. When the case is referred to this governmental system, the NGO has to request information about the solution of the case manually, as there are only a few cases where this information is given proactively. Another challenge relates to how much information should be released to partners when a child is being referred to them or when the media is covering a case. She argued that there was difficulty in finding the balance between providing the service in the best way possible without overexposing the child or breaching confidentiality. Children and families could also put themselves at risk as they might reveal more information than they should when they are reached out by the media. Finally, she described the issue of duplicate data, something already described in the “RD4C Case Study: Childline Kenya.” According to Martha, data duplication is something over which Childline Kenya has little control since a child or their family might report the case to various offices when they feel their expectations were not met: “When you start gathering this data and putting it together you find reports of the same child from three different entities.” Though this is not the rule, it is important to consider a margin of error when dealing with the data produced by the service. What are the most important factors that have enabled your success thus far and how will you promote the responsible use of data for children going forward? Martha explained that the service is very successful because they try to create awareness of the importance of data security with all the stakeholders involved. This awareness raising involves children and their families, the media and other stakeholders who are often not included in the child protection community. “We dont assume that they would know things that are part of child safeguarding so whenever we have an opportunity we keep creating awareness on the issue,” Martha said. She also emphasized the importance of good practices being applied internally to lead by example. Childline Kenya makes sure that it follows data protection guidelines and standards locally and globally. Other partner organizations have gone to Kenya to learn what the institution is doing to replicate Childline Kenya’s work in their own countries. Martha also attributed Childline’s success to the involvement of partners. When partnering with other institutions, Childline Kenya requires that they sign a safeguarding policy if they do not have their own so as to commit to protecting children under Childline Kenya’s standards. Martha emphasizes that this policy was not simply checking a box. Rather, partnership is a process in which the institution actually demonstrates an understanding of the importance of these policies, providing instruction for an informed decision. She noted the engagement with the government was formalized by a memorandum of understanding that holds both of them responsible. What are the major changes or new policies and processes that have been implemented since the development of the case study? Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Martha stated that remote access to the helpline service was made available to staff so that they could work from home. This presented new challenges related to data protection as the institution focused on the process of setting up the remote access. In order to access the platform, a specific device had to be configured and a licence installed. This device could not be shared with other people and other applications could not be accessed while the Childline system was in use. This work was important to protect the data from external parties and from malicious softwares. *** Childline Kenya still faces some challenges since the case study development, such as finding a balance in sharing data about a case with partners and the media, data duplication, and shared responsibilities with the government. However, it is clear that the initiative's success is intrinsically related to the responsible data handling practices it has been implementing. Especially in situations where Childline Kenya’s service is increasingly needed, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, these practices allow the most vulnerable children in the country to have their immediate needs met while still having their data handled responsibly. Follow our blog to read our next “Lessons from the Field” and join the RD4C conversation to receive regular updates. [PHOTO CREDITS: Unsplash/Julian Hochgesang; Unsplash/Belle Maluf; Unsplash/bennett tobias licensed under CC0]Read more
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
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.