Literally every business or organizations collects data in one way or another. This data come in all manner of shapes and in different frequency, it might also be distributed across different systems or under the custodian of different individuals. With influx of data, many organization’s focus tend to shift to the active data, with minimal use or no use at all, of data not tied to daily operation of the business – hence becoming dark data.
So, what is dark data?
Dark data is data which is acquired through various computer network operations but is not used in any manner to derive insights or for decision making.
Therefore, this article explores four ways in which organizations can tap on this ‘dark data’ to create platforms for knowledge sharing and learning.
Note: This article strictly explores on geographically related data, however, it is good to note that application of dark data can only be limited by your organization imagination and creativity.
Mapping hierarchical data/analysis
This is data in which data model is organized in tree-like structure. For instance, an organization structure segmented into zones or regions, then sub-regions and branches. All these categories may possess unique strengths or perform differently based on various organization metrics. Mapping these organization hierarchical data can help build curiosity hence accelerating learning within the organizations.
A perfect example is census data, this data is usually segmented in different administration hierarchy e.g. Region, District and ward. Although the data is widely used for planning purposes by the government. If well visualized and presented, such data can be useful to other institutions and even to the citizens for learning purposes.
Sample dashboard: Tanzania population data – 2012 census.
Extracting location intelligence
This can be done on data capturing exact location of various organization assets, this could range from branches and offices, service access points, distributions centres, operating zones or even competitors’ locations and other social amenities. Such data though not used on daily decision making can help organization create learnings on its operations and have a clear view on its assets.
Adding analytical aspects based on different organization’s metrics can make it insightful and even rich in content.
Sample dashboard: Kenya schools in Kibera, Mathare and Kangemi slums
Measuring long-term impact & successes
Every Non-governmental organization is dedicated to fighting or promoting something. E.g.
Fighting malaria, FGM, hunger, HIV/AIDS, corruption, plastic pollution, human trafficking, terrorism, climate change etc. or
Promoting democracy, education, health, organic farming, gender equality, nutrition, sustainability, human rights etc.
It’s easy for the folks in this area to get entangled with their mission to an extend of forgetting measuring their impact. And surprisingly, these organizations collect lots of data, but once reports are done and submitted to the donors and other partners marks the end of projects. The data is either deleted and if lucky trashed in an old computer somewhere. Such data could be helpful in measuring organizations long term impact and telling successes.
A good example is in the dashboard below, which explores the progress in reducing under five mortality between 1950 and 2005.
Sample dashboard: Under Five mortality between 1950 & 2005.
If you can’t use your organization’s dark data in the three ways described above, then use it to tell data stories. I mean – literally stories. Every piece of data has a story to tell, and these stories can help organizations establish a learning platform for new staff and other external visitors.
A good example of a data story is the dashboard below on population of internet users in Africa. So, basically this is a story on internet in Africa. Imagine the impact of a collection of stories on your organization in promoting learning?
Sample Dashboard: Population of Internet users in Africa
These are just a few examples of the many ways you can put dark data in use. I hope that it was helpful to you.
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