Date: January 19, 2021

Evaluation is an activity based on data literacy, data collection and data analysis. But obtaining data is the challenge of the moment. With the global pandemic, traveling has become difficult and often postponed. One area recently receiving attention in professional circles is the usage of big data for evaluations.

Big data usage has grown in the last decade as an innovative method for conducting evaluations. But whilst big data sets can achieve potentially more than field work, many users are unaware that their data is being used in this manner. Alice Macfarlan takes a look at some of the ways that Big Data is being used and raises some questions about the privacy implications of this emerging form of information. There are various examples and discussions on the usage of social media data dumps or mobile services.  Of course, data privacy can be an issue and must be addressed from both ethical and legal principles.

There is obviously a need to discuss the potential and limitations of the use of big data in evaluations. This includes exploring how, when field-based data collection is virtually impossible, it can provide a good addition to remote data collection. Considering these limitations, it is clear: if evaluators want to remain relevant in the years to come, they simply cannot ignore big data.


Data Literacy:

UNDP: Big Data for Development:

Better Evaluation:

Michael Bamberger:

UNDP: Discussion Paper: Innovations in Monitoring and Evaluation   

Alice Mcfarlan:

Global pulse: