Citizen-generated gender data in Maldives: connecting data ecosystems
“Citizen-generated data (CGD) is data that people or their organisations produce to directly monitor, demand or drive change on issues that affect them. (…) CGD is distinct from “big data” or social media data, which is indirectly created by citizens through interaction with media platforms”.
In February 2020, PARIS21 supported the Maldives National Bureau of Statistics and a dozen gender equality civil society organisations, in launching a collaborative project on citizen-generated gender data.
In 2010, the Maldives passed the Decentralization Act, a legal instrument to devolve some of the powers and responsibilities of government to local authorities. The Act also recognises civil society organisations (CSOs) as partners in service delivery, development planning and implementation. For an island nation spread whose half-million population is spread over 1200 islands, this is an important means of making government more responsive.
In February 2020, the Maldives accomplished a comprehensive yearlong assessment of gender statistics at the national level with support from PARIS21. The assessment was undertaken as part of the “Women Count” initiative of UN Women to inform the preparation of the country’s Second National Strategy for the Development of Statistics for 2020-2030. The results of the assessment revealed that the statistical system of the Maldives (roughly composed of the National Bureau of Statistics and data-producing government agencies and ministries) produced only 57% of priority gender indicators demanded by global and national policy frameworks (e.g. SDGs and sectoral policies).
This low data availability hinders the government to build a policy and programme response to address gender issues, especially within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the presence of civil society organisations in remote atolls makes them well positioned to collect data on a more frequent basis compared to official surveys or censuses. Recognising this potential for more and better data, the Maldives National Bureau of Statistics identifies civil society organisations not only as statistics users but also as producers of gender data.
Data collected by the CSOs for their own activities and research has the potential to close some information gaps. PARIS21’s approach, providing clarity and methodological support, can help CGD stakeholders to collaborate and revolutionise the role of civil society in national statistics.
The CGD initiative, launched in February 2020, was welcomed with great interest by the NBS, the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services, and the CSOs. All parties were eager to collaborate with one other, recognising a huge potential for knowledge sharing and an opportunity to close gender data gaps.
The NBS plan is to take stock of gender-sensitive data currently produced by CSOs, including in the context of COVID-19 impact. CSOs expect to obtain guidance from the national statisticians on improving the quality of their data collection. NBS assistance in guiding the CSOs through joint analysis of their gender data alongside gender statistics produced by the statistical system should help to increase the use of gender statistics at the country level and pave a way for increased policy uptake.