Hot topic: data, The Data Deluge, as The Economist calls it. I can’t link to it because it’s subscription-only, but the February 27th, 2010 edition is pretty interesting. There’s a special report about the unbelievable amount of data that exists in the world today, and what companies, governments, NGOs, and individuals wish to and do actually do with the data.

We here at Nuru are not yet experiencing a deluge of the yottabyte proportions being referenced in the Economist piece at this moment per se (please read some sarcasm here), but we do have an Excel model that takes about five minutes to open.

That Excel model is the result of one collection of baseline data and one third Party evaluation.

We’re not conducting an Evaluation this year because of our M&E system overhaul, but next year we plan to conduct two and collect baseline data in two new communities; the year after that we’ll conduct six evaluations and collect baseline data in one new community; and it only gets more extensive from there.

The data we’ve already collected will never go away according to our plan, so in no time at all, we’ll be experiencing perhaps not a deluge, but at least a steady shower.

What to do with all this data? We have an online database, but it, like the M&E system itself, has to be overhauled this year to handle what we are trying to do.

So anyway, let me get to the subject matter point:

We have a trilogy of data categories here at Nuru.

The first category is the one I’ve referred to extensively in the first section of this post: the M&E data. It is the data that is collected and used to assess the level of poverty in the communities where we are working. It is used to assess the poverty level at a point in time and the progression out of poverty that occurs over time.

A pilot version of that M&E system was developed a few years ago and put into use last year. Baseline data was gathered in the early part of 2009, and Evaluation One data was gathered in December of 2009. The system itself is meant to assess progression within the context of that system against the baseline established last year.

The second category is a subset of the M&E data: the Dashboard. We don’t have a dashboard yet, but we are working on developing one as we do an overhaul of our whole M&E system. It will be a short (4 to 5 indicators) list of the best Metrics we have. It will consist of the most objectively accurate indicators of poverty. I don’t want to hazard a guess as to what the dashboard will look like in the long run because we’re just not sure until the metrics overhaul is complete, but it will be a succinct and informative list.

The third and final category of data is the PIN (Poverty Intelligence Network). The PIN will consist of data that is collected weekly by Nuru employees in the field across all five target areas. I won’t give away too much information about what the PIN is, as David is in charge of it, has told you a bit about it already and will definitely tell you more. What I will mention is that the PIN will likely consist of a subset of M&E metrics as well as a lot of additional operational data such as attendance records and loan repayment data.

The only remaining piece of information I must include is this: why did I call this post ‘things as I see them’? I will tell you why: because we have not decided here at Nuru that these three categories are the final answer in terms of categories of data. We might decide that the three categories overlap so much that they should not be considered separately. We might decide that there is a fourth category.

I just don’t know at the moment where paths will lead us, but you at least know my current perspective, and that is enough for now. Thanks for reading, and trust me, there’s more to come!