What is a data prison?
A data prison could be one or more of these data conditions holding back the successes of your organizational goals and objectives:
- Excessive, confusing, and annoying paper-based files –manually moved from one desk to the other.
- Unstructured and semi-structured typed data - stored on laptops, desktop computers and flash drives.
- Combined unstructured and structured data - on databases on cloud and premise which takes more time and costs to query than to collect a new set.
- Segmented and decentralized data sources – characterized by lack or incomplete availability, often filled with errors, and fatal outcomes
- Inability to transpose data into useful information – essentially due to insufficient human and technology skills
- A pile of information but confusing choices on any attempts to access let alone interpret.
- A lack or inappropriate data infrastructural systems
- Zero level or inadequate manpower skills at all data levels.
Organizations experiencing any of these challenges would struggle with optimal productivity and in many cases managers will feel frustrated in delivering results. And in many instances managers or their staff do not link the frustration to data imbalances. However, slow down in meeting deadlines and reporting program results is often traceable to poor data management capacities. Civil servants and/or development professionals can live in data prisons best describe any business where these data deficiencies are incubated as a routine. For instance, many government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including MDAs programs and projects are associated with one or more of these data conditions in which civil servants perpetrate bureaucratic bottlenecks. During performance evaluation or report writing, data lined staff spend more time trying to access the data, not having sufficient time and energy to engage (understand and apply) it for new insights. Politicians end up getting less valued conclusions that they should, so they simply resort to exaggerations or what is politely called gimmicks.
It is often said the civil service bureaucratic routine is inefficient and unproductive but the ‘Civil Service’ does not have to be trapped in this reality.
However, supposing a government buys into a routine ideal that makes the civil service better productive?
This would correct the proposition that routine makes the civil service of an unproductive and ineffective. Routines can be productive; the most productive business such as - Banks, Insurance, Aviation Industry, and the Health sector workers all rely on coded routines in modern technology, so that nothing is left to chance. This suggests that routine in the civil service can be a good thing provided 2 conditions are met:
- Select a routine - preferably a data routine such as the one on figure 1 below. These data steps provide the necessary steps to a full circle.
- Code and routinize practitioners (e.g civil servants)
A framework leading to data freedom is one that enables a linear routine action on evidenced based performance. The above examples of a linear chain of activities ( collect data, process data, demo results, publish results and collect feedback) are essentially connected with performance measurement and will potentially lay the foundation for evidence-based, result-driven decision making in the public sector.