Who owns data in Somalia? Ending the country’s privatised knowledge economy

Over the past decades, donors, aid agencies, consultants and enumerators have conducted increasing amounts of aid-related research in the form of monitoring, assessments and surveys in Somalia. The rise of third-party monitoring (TPMs), new technologies and the arrival of global consultancy firms have not only led to an internationalised and professionalised market for aid information but also introduced new power dynamics in the production of aid knowledge. The way in which aid data in Somalia/Somaliland is produced reflects prevailing stereotypes about the supposedly superior value of ‘Western’ expertise over local knowledge. This brief raises important questions about the production and ownership of aid- related knowledge in the Somali territories where, due to weak state institutions, data collection is unregulated, and often de facto privatised. Moreover, the insufficient uptake of aid information by aid agencies, the governments and the public gives pause for thought. As Somali government institutions are strengthening, there is an urgent need to localise knowledge production in Somalia and to make aid information and data available to the public. There is also a need to strengthen data protection and research ethics and to rethink some of the extractive and negative impacts of the current aid information business.

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