A promising start to the GIZ Data Lab

An increasing number of organizations are launching data innovation programs to test and evaluate new approaches to applying digital data to advance development. These initiatives often come in the form of data labs where new ideas to harness the potential of digital data are tested using innovation methods and tools. In recent months, GIZ has made considerable investments to strengthen its programming in the wider digital development space, and more specifically in the digital data for development (D4D) space.

In October 2018, the management of GIZ decided to set up the GIZ Data Lab. The Data Lab’s vision is to assess new business opportunities for GIZ through rapid and application-oriented experimentation with digital data sources. It is envisioned to cooperate closely with GIZ staff in countries, create new fields of action and initiate new cooperation with external experts in order to establish GIZ as an innovative service provider in the D4D field. Last week, I was invited to participate in the kick-off workshop – the first major event of the GIZ Data Lab that brought together internal and external stakeholders to explore areas of work and to set an agenda for the Lab for 2019.

Fig 1: GIZ teams’ presentations of D4D experiment ideas for GIZ Data Lab

The workshop was organized around the following phases:
• Phase 1: Defining Identity
• Phase 2: Clarifying Roles and Functions
• Phase 3: Identifying Workstreams & Experiments

During Phase 3, which was the core of the workshop, specific workstreams were identified and prioritized, and experiments were designed for lab prototypes that can be presented in2019. Some of the key ideas that were presented and explored include:

• Data in fragile contexts
• Utilizing big data to build a conflict predictor
• AI/ algorithmic audit
• ID4All
• Labor Markets Insights tool
• AI training data repository
• Data4Mobility
• Forestry smart planning tool for climate action

We were extremely encouraged by the enthusiastic response of GIZ staff and management to the early ideas that were shared. At DIAL, we look forward to continuing to partner with GIZ as the Data Lab aims to build up data-related expertise within the organization. We believe that the lab can contribute significantly to the development of strategies, POCs and analyses on how data can be used for GIZ’s core business and integrated into GIZ’s service portfolio at an early stage.

Syed Raza is the Senior Director, Data for Development, at DIAL.