By Alejandra Luzardo*
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.”
Data collection in development projects has been impacted by the new crowdsourcing trends. With its emergence a new door opens to generate ideas and develop projects using what some call collective intelligence.
Today, this collective intelligence is used by NGOs, multilateral organizations and many governments around the world, allowing them to instantly collect real data that would take years or would be impossible to collect if they used conventional methodologies.
Four years ago we would have not imagined that by using this collective intelligence we could generate:
- The map that has been developed by the Surui indigenous community, located in the Amazon, which allows them to tell the world details about their roots throughout history.
- The USAID initiative that called on students, geography experts and volunteers to clean up more than 20,000 records allowing them to visualize where the money has been invested and results achieved.
- Kenya Open Data, which monitors data on projects in Kenya to ensure they will get the expected results, or
- Ushahidi, an open source project that collects data about emergencies via text and mobile phones.
Technology will continue to play an important role in the future of management and data collection but citizens, more than ever, play an equally crucial part in gathering information.
But, if crowdsourcing allows you to collect data, who validates it?
When it comes to validating data, the most surprising thing is that you can use the same concept that was used to collect the information. Like Google Maps which uses crowdsourcing for data validation. These validators are known as “Regional Expert Evaluators.”
Validators can win from Google an “R” distinction for their contribution to high-quality map content. This recognition allows the team to know that Google Maps data has been validated by these experts.
Andrea Madero, Map Maker Director for Latin America, told me that the most fascinating part of this process is when two of these experts cannot agree on the information, on many occasions they will go to the site to decide who has the correct data.
The message behind the collective intelligence is the belief that local knowledge is essential for creating accurate maps, after all, people know their neighborhood better than anyone.
My view of these new developments is that more than ever, to solve the puzzle of development, we need to involve local communities.
Data visualization through a map allows us to see information about a project in a way we could never have imagined before. It also allows us to make our work more transparent.
When we open that window, we are able to connect communities that share the same interests, engage in conversations that are relevant to the region and obtain feedback and ideas on how to develop projects in a different way.
Alejandra Luzardo is a Senior Communications Specialist at IDB’s Office of External Relations. Her work focuses on the coordination of Internet and social media communication strategy. Alejandra has a MA in Communications from American University and is a founding member of Pro Design School in Caracas, Venezuela.