Developing a data collaborative tool to enhace LGBTQI advocacy: Using the Human Centred Design as a guiding principle

Bobina Zulfa March 26, 2022

With the ever advancing field of information and communication technology (ICT) has come a host of tools that avail opportunities for human rights defenders particularly of marginalized communities to carry out their advocacy in a more systemized and safer environment. This points to the crucial role a data collaborative tool would be addressing.

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Recently, Pollicy together with various partners on the Rapid Research for Agile Policy Making project convened in an ideation workshop geared towards developing a data collaboration tool to aid advocacy of the LGBTQI community. Emphasis was placed on this tool being established using the Human Centred Design approach.

What is a data collaborative tool?

For the start, understanding what a data collaborative tool is was the beginning point of the workshop. Here, this was defined as “a centralized repository where users can draw in information, knowledge, and insights.” From that broad brush definition, data collaboration can be specifically explained as a process of bringing together data from various sources to unlock combined data insights. For data collaboration to happen thus, all these insights have to be combined first and this is by uploading all the data needed onto a third-party platform. It is this platform that is called a data collaborative tool.

A data collaborative tool on that account is then a centralized site for data aggregation from which a range of partners can share and extract quantitative and qualitative data sets and insights to help meet different set goals. These insights derived are meant to help power richer experiences for the users of the given services, systems or products.

Keeping in mind richer advocacy being the goal of developing this tool for and by LGBTQI activists, one then can appreciate its capacity to steer their efforts more towards data-driven or evidence-based advocacy. It is only with data that advocates can best know where to concentrate their efforts which ensures maximum effectiveness compared to working in the absence of evidence which would consequently reduce the blind spots that are likely to hinder their endeavors.

There are a number of data collaborative tools that most people are familiar with including the internet, Google Drive, Microsoft Teams, Slack and several others. A major con of data collaborative tools is that they pose heavy security and privacy challenges. This comes with giving up data to a third party to control it which could result in its misuse, leakage and so on. These are key security challenges that the workshop sought to address given especially the criticality of a lot of data from LGBTQI advocacy communities that is sensitive and as such requires it be kept safe from likely misuse that may further harm or make vulnerable members of the community.

A brief description of Human Centred Design approach

The International Standard ISO 9241-210’s ‘Ergonomics of human-centred system interaction’ describes the Human Centred Design as an ‘approach to systems design and development that aims to make interactive systems more usable by focusing on the use of the system and applying human factors/ ergonomics and usability knowledge and techniques. The standard goes ahead to stipulate 6 characteristics of the HCD which include:

  • The adoption of multidisciplinary skills and perspectives
  • Explicit understanding of users, tasks and environments
  • User-centred evaluation driven/refined design
  • Consideration of the whole user experience
  • Involvement of users throughout design and development
  • Iterative process.

As per the workshop, it is this design paradigm that was prescribed as the one to be used to develop the data collaborative tool envisioned. More details on the HCD can be found here

Why does the LGBTQI Community require a data collaborative tool?

The LGBTQI community in Uganda just like in many parts of the world face unique challenges and so are especially vulnerable in particular to persecution, stigma and violence leading to the community’s continued marginalization.

This reality requires active struggles by community members against discrimination in various aspects that are critical to an all-round good quality life. This fight against discrimination has been done by LGBTQI persons and their allies by coming together to advocate for equal treatment of all persons regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

As different advocacy efforts have been ongoing on issues of the LGBTQI community, it has become clear that research and data is pivotal in advancing awareness of the issues using data backed estimates which data is both qualitative and quantitative in nature. However, gathering these findings alone isn’t enough as there is also a need to share them with relevant individuals, organizations and institutions which ultimately influence policy making.

It is here that a data collaborative tool is necessitated since it would allow for consolidating of the data on LGBTQI issues as well as drawing valuable insights in a digitally secure environment that is meant to enable LGBTQI advocates to develop, lobby and enact policies that can lead to the equality and wellbeing of the community as a whole. The tool would act as a heterogeneous data network structure that shall best prepare LGBTQI advocates in their work.

As a background to ideating on developing this tool, a mapping done by Pollicy of available data sources indicated data security issues affecting its sharing including sensitivity or confidentiality of the data, content of the information as well as source of data among other factors. Furthermore, the report indicated challenges in sharing information among organizations including a lack of safe sharing tools.

Accordingly, these challenges posit a gap to be addressed in regard to data around issues of the LGBTQI community in particular which is the basis for the efforts to ideate and develop a data collaborative tool for the community using the HCD.