Giving Compass' Take:

• Data and privacy are becoming more of a concern in India as donors want reports on nonprofit relief efforts. 

• How can nonprofits sustain transparency in reports but also protect data and privacy of those they serve?

• Learn about data-sharing in COVID-19 research projects. 

The story of the COVID-19 pandemic in India is a story of data and numbers. Numbers that are reported, and those that are not. Numbers that are important, and those that are deemed less so. Numbers that matter, and numbers we don’t seem to care about.

Nonprofits working on the ground, including us at Apnalaya, began to respond to the spread of the virus early. Communities were sensitised before the lockdown was announced, and once the lockdown seemed inevitable, the focus shifted to relief.

We received support from, and were very thankful to, the many individual supporters who contributed to our call for donations. Corporate entities and institutional donors (some of whom we’ve associated with in the past, and some new) also supported us, strengthening our resolve to go deeper into relief work. However, not all conversations were easy.

We raised money for dry ration kits and distributed them in our communities, and some funders insisted that we share individual details of every person that received the kits. Names, address details, phone numbers, pictures—enough to be able to uniquely identify each individual—were sought. Some even asked us to video record the entire operation. The donors needed to be sure that relief is reaching those it was intended to reach, we were told.

Like any rights-respecting organisation, we want to achieve a balance between transparency towards funders, and upholding the rights of communities and stakeholders. These rights include data rights.

Wouldn’t a combination of aggregated and anonymised reports, a few photographs, social media updates, and voices from the community suffice? What does this composite picture lack, that sharing a list with identifiable details of individuals can fulfil?

Read the full article about data and privacy by Arun Kumar and Raghunandan Hegde at India Development Review.