aerial view of roads and city lights

Photo by Dennis Kummer on Unsplash

Project: Experimentalism and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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The idea

The growing availability of data is creating new markets, new products, new services and new digital technologies. These innovations and opportunities also come with new potential risks and harms, and potentially new shifts in societal structures or the social contract between government and citizens.

But the evidence base that national or local governments and multilateral bodies can draw on can be uneven in quality, or highly contextual, because of the novelty of the data or its granularity.

This presents new opportunities and challenges for those responsible for data policy or public services in national or local government. It also gives rise to new needs for innovation in their decision-making and data practice.

The vision

This project will explore how data policymakers and decision-makers using data for public good can work in more innovative and experimental ways to adapt to the fast-moving societal and economic challenges and opportunities around new data availability and associated digital technologies.

The particular focus will be the role of data and digital technologies in transforming communities and markets.  This aligns with both national priorities in many countries around skills, jobs, and sustainable supply chains, and with global Sustainable Development Goals around education, work, and climate action.

The plan

The project will run from June 2021 to March 2022 in three parts:

  • Part 1 (June-Sept 2021) will explore new parameters in data policy and practice;
  • Part 2 (Sept-Nov 2021) will explore opportunities for innovation and experimentation;
  • Part 3 (Dec-March 2022) will explore innovation and experimentation in evaluation.

Throughout, we’ll be drawing on the ODI’s thought leadership and expertise in data institutions, data assurance and data literacy.

The scope of the project is international with three workstreams:

  • Data policy and practice in the UK
  • Data policy and practice around under-represented or marginalised communities in the UK, North America, and Europe
  • Data policy and practice around international development and the Global South

This is to ensure that experimental approaches do not reinforce existing inequalities; and also to counterbalance these inequalities by exploring the leadership and innovation opportunities for or by those communities.

Get involved

We’re creating a community of practice of policymakers and practitioners around this project, as well as a resource guide and a collection of case studies that we hope will develop as the project evolves.

As the ODI, we will work in the open and in an agile way to demonstrate our practice and allow others to learn from this project in a timely way. We will try new things if there would be value in sharing our learning even if they fail. And we will keep the structure of the core project consistent so that there is flexibility for project partners and participants to collaborate with us and with each other around it on new initiatives.

If you’d like to stay informed about the project and/or maybe get involved as a project partner or collaborator then we’d love to hear from you! You can let us know via this short contact form: