Operationalising citizen-generated data at the country level

The data requirements to respond to the COVID-19 crisis combined with the vast data needs to continue reporting and monitoring global, regional and national agendas are motivating National Statistical Offices to explore the use of alternative data sources such as citizen-generated data (CGD). However, the use of CGD comes with strings attached. CGD vary in quality and coverage, and there is a need to have a common understanding of its defining aspects. PARIS21 is supporting our partners by proposing a working definition of CGD and an innovative approach for NSOs to use CGD for reporting purposes.

What is citizen-generated data?


what is citizen-generated data


Citizen-generated data are data produced by non-state actors under the active consent of citizens to tackle social issues explicitly. This definition denotes three distinguishing features of CGD that help NSOs and other stakeholders to identify and understand the nature of CGD.

  • Who produces CGD? Non-state actors, particularly individuals or civil society organizations (CSOs).
  • How is CGD produced? CGD is actively given by citizens. This approach to data collection requires data providers to consciously give information, feel comfortable about it, and spend time entering the data.
  • Why is CGD produced? The primary purpose of CGD production is to monitoring, demand or drive change on issues affecting citizens or their communities, and not the production of official statistics.

Why are citizen-generated data useful for NSOs?

Countries need data at an unprecedented level of granularity to respond to crisis and its effects, and monitor their national, regional and global agendas, ensuring that no one is left behind. Citizen-generated data (CGD) have the potential not only to fill some of those data gaps, but its use by NSOs can facilitate engagement with data users and enhance trust in data.

  • Close data gaps – CGD might enable policymakers to track sensitive issues at the communal level for which official statistics are often unavailable, for example, CGD on violence against women. Furthermore, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators on areas such as reproductive health, disability or environmental issues, often uncovered by official statistics, might also benefit from CGD.
  • Strengthen engagement with data users – Within the data ecosystem, CGD producers are also data users. Hence, the collaboration between NSOs and CGD producers is an opportunity for NSOs to reach out to their data users, strengthen their relationship with them and better understand their needs.
  • Enhance trust in data – Collaboration between NSOs and CGD producers can help to enhance institutional trust. Enabling a space of dialogue and cooperation with non-conventional data producers is an opportunity for NSOs to communicate the integrity, transparency, impartiality and confidentiality of their practices.

How is PARIS21 supporting NSOs in this process?

  • Clarity - Propose a working definition of CGD to be used by NSOs when identifying CGD and initiating their engagement with CGD producers
  • Quality - Advise on how to develop and implement standards to validate quality of CGD based on its fitness for purpose
  • Coordination – Help NSOs to design outreach strategies, adapt coordination mechanisms and build data repositories for CGD

Read a summary of PARIS21's experience with the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on the use of citizen-generated data for SDG review and follow-up, which has been referenced by Partners 4 Review as part of their case studies documenting good practices on voluntary national reviews. 

NSOs looking to engage with alternative data producers can consult PARIS21's new framework "Reusing Citizen-Generated Data for Official Reporting". It provides guidance in identifying, evaluating and using citizen-generated data for reporting on sustainable development. The flagship paper offers a working definition of CGD, a framework to validate CGD quality and examples of NSOs using CGD to improve the availability of data for decision-making.

Country experiences



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