Beyond Numbers: The Use and Usefulness of Data for Education in Emergencies
Recognizing the lack of knowledge about how to improve data systems for education in emergencies (EiE), we examine in this article how EiE professionals use data and what makes data “useful” to them. Drawing from 48 semistructured interviews from a purposive sample of professionals working in the EiE field across the humanitarian, development, and stabilization sectors, we explored the primary ways EiE professionals use data. Using inductive and emergent coding, we identified the key themes, which we then disaggregated by participants’ sector and role in EiE operations. Our findings indicate that there is a common need across sectors for data that inform operations. However, participants working at a national or local level spoke the most about operational uses of data and the least about strategic uses, such as policymaking and advocating. Meanwhile, there was a notable emphasis among actors at the global level on strengthening data systems and their strategic uses. In this article, we also highlight the myriad nontechnical factors that shaped participants’ perceptions of usefulness, including the politicization of data, users’ expertise in analysis, and personal and institutional relationships. We argue that conversations about improving data for use in EiE must not focus exclusively on tools or techniques but also on people, institutions, and contexts.