On 14 December 2017 we joined the Dutch The Policy and Operations Evaluation Department (IOB) in celebrating its 40 year anniversary by hosting a panel session entitled Data-driven policy development.


This session was about the opportunities and challenges of using “big data” for the development and evaluation of foreign policy.We hosted the following speakers, as well as, our own Thomas Baar and Arvid Halma:

  • Jelte van Wieren, director DSH, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Stefania Giodini, Team Leader 510 Initiative, Netherlands Red Cross
  • Jochem Tissink, DVC, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Harmen van Pelt, Front-end Developer, Maxim EMG
  • Antonie de Kemp, IOB, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Throughout the session they presented and discussed examples of how large data files can inform rather than drive foreign policies and their evaluations, arguing that data is essentially complementary to knowledge. They discussed under what conditions continuous flows of data make policies more effective and efficient.


Event Summary

After a short introduction by the moderator Thomas Baar, Jelte van Wieren discussed the concept of big data and briefly presenting three cases illustrating its use of big data in foreign policies:

  1. Transponders in commercial vessels generate early warning signals for rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea;
  2. Digitalised radio conversations provide up-to-date information on the spread of diseases in Uganda;
  3. Credit card payments of beneficiaries inform aid organisations in Lebanon about regional migration patterns.

Arvid presented on our project with the World Food Programme (WFP) on cash-based transfers and how he had helped develop an interactive dashboard to monitor their work with refugees in Lebanon. The dashboard uses data generated by credit card payments. For more information about this project click the button below:

At the end of session, the IOB representative Antoine De Kemp pointed out that real time data does not take away the need for evaluation. IOB has a role to build trust and common understanding around the use of big data for policy evaluation within the ministry: by informing the design of evaluation practices, and providing relevant tools and capacities towards this end.


Event Impressions