How to identify and resolve challenges in data utilization for governments across the developing world
By Fatima Shahid & Rimshaw Khan
The effective use of data in the public sector is often hindered by challenges unique to the various regions in which we work. By utilizing the right tools, we can not only identify, but also move towards resolving these challenges.

We summarize four challenges below and mention some of the best practices that can help partners and implementers overcome them.


1. Reliance on self-reported data

Oftentimes, when there is a lack of third-party data, reviewing progress becomes difficult because the only option is to use self-reported data. Two strategies can help overcome this challenge:

  • Placing verification checks on self-reported data using existing resources to help improve its quality

  • Triangulating self-reported data using other sources, for example, household surveys

2. Presenting data effectively

From our work, especially in the province of Punjab in Pakistan, we have noticed that presenting data by itself sometimes does not result in the desired effect. In a situation, two ways of presenting data have proven to be useful:

  • Increasing the use of effective visualization to present critical information

  • Embedding the data in a well-crafted, convincing story to prompt the desired action from its audience

3. Identifying reliable data sources

Identifying reliable data sources is extremely important. Three factors can help in selecting the most reliable data source:

  • Data should be collected regularly at timely intervals that are aligned with the goals of the project

  • The data collection authority must have a good reputation with regards to data quality and transparency

  • Data should have an appropriate coverage to meet the requirements



“The effective use of data in the public sector is often hindered by challenges unique to the various regions in which we work.”


4. Selecting relevant data points

Selecting a few relevant data points from among an extensive amount of data being collected is a challenge our teams working on COVID-19 had to grapple with. Three key steps helped in the process:

  • Mapping the process of the activity for which data is being collected

  • Identifying the overall outcome and outputs of the activity- there could be different outputs for each process in an activity

  • Designing KPIs that directly measure outcomes and key outputs, and then selecting the data points that link with these KPIs


In an age where governments’ reliance on data is increasing, it is critical to ensure that data is being utilized effectively and serves the intended purpose. By using the right set of best practices explained above, implementers can make it possible.

Rapidly mapping health facilities in fragile and conflict-affected contexts: lessons from Somalia
By Jonny Barty & Abdiwahab Abdullahi Elmi
26 May 2022
Somalia is one of the most difficult places to provide health services, following decades of conflict and political instability, and..
Learn more
Lessons from two decades of school reform in New York City
By Fenton Whelan
06 June 2022
New York City’s schools have improved significantly and can teach us a lot about reform.
Learn more
Training frontline staff for digital transformation
By Ammar Agha
14 December 2021
Rolling out technology is a top priority for many governments, especially in developing countries, and can be a promising approach to..
Learn more