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Better data has the power to save more lives, says Melinda Gates

MFG Archive

This week we take a look at Melinda Gates’ article for Wired UK about the power and importance of data. In the article, Gates suggests that the “field of global development isn’t taking full advantage of the power of data,” which she believes could potentially save lives.

Our digital world runs on data; from Amazon book recommendations to Netflix movie suggestions, data is vital to companies’ success and longevity. Gates suggests, however, that “in [global] development we still rely primarily on educated guesses,” not data driven solutions.

In 2000, the Millennium Development Goals were established with specific targets to be met by 2015. Starting in 2016, to efficiently and precisely track progress and build on it, she believes we need to collect more data more frequently. This will lead to developing countries harnessing the true power of data to change their citizens’ lives for the better.

Until recently, developing countries conducted national health surveys roughly every five years. This meant countries that conducted surveys in 2010 were making decisions in 2015 based on data that may no longer be pertinent. Gates believes a more efficient system must be put into place to solve the lapse in time from collecting and analyzing data, to decision making.

She presents a new smartphone-based data system called Performance Monitoring and Accountability (PMA2020). PMA2020 provides governments with better versions of data every six to 12 months, so leaders can make decisions based on near real-time analyses, rather than five-year-old data. The system allows the collected data to reach decision makers faster by gathering and analyzing information more frequently.

The more current and accurate data we have, the better equipped we are to provide solutions that ultimately improve and save lives.

For more about Melinda Gates’ take on data driven solutions, see the article in the November 2015 issue of WIRED magazine.