The Need For Human-Centered Design In A Hyper Connected World


Image: Internews

This second post of a three series is from our strategic advisor Amanda Noonan, Director of Research, Design and Innovation for Internews and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Data-Driven Development Global Agenda Council.

Challenges, Opportunities and Responsibilities: Part 2 of 3

Towards Inclusion:  The Need for Human-Centered Design 

It might seem logical that the majority of data-centric conversations start and end with technical discussions of raw data. In practice, however, raw data isn’t truly that useful to most individuals.  It’s only when we use data that it transforms into knowledge, informs decisions and truly makes an impact. It is, therefore, the how, why and where data are and could be used that matters most. 

We need to empower all members of the data ecosystem - producers, consumers, movers and users – to make meaningful and informed decisions. To foster better solutions and support, perhaps we can reimagine not so much a “Data Revolution,” but more a “Data and Design Revolution.” We need to rethink our approaches for how we design, build and support data driven systems, so that they are more human-centered  and based on inclusion, empathy and responsiveness.

In particular we need to:

Question the questions - What are actual known and unknown challenges and opportunities? Human-centered design approaches can provide the means to identify the complex and nuanced needs, challenges and aspirations of all individuals … particularly the most vulnerable. Through inclusive co-creation, critical human dimensions of complex situations can be discerned and risks reduced; needs are discovered and impact more effectively delivered.

Understand experience - Another important attribute of human-centered design is empathy. Empathy is a truly powerful and necessary tool to understand the experiences of others. With mindful attention to the explicit, implicit and unknown needs of individuals, stakeholders can more fully value the principles of dignity, autonomy and the uniqueness of individuals. Empathy also facilitates a cooperative design process that leads to effective, sustainable, and innovative solutions to data challenges. Perhaps above all, empathy strengthens trust, which is one of the most critical elements in ensuring engagement, use and impact. 

So that we are able to:

Keep learning and iterating - Human-centered approaches help us to learn and adapt to the constant change and uncertainty of a hyper connected world. Fluid, responsive and rigorous, human-centered processes force us to constantly question deeply held assumptions that cloud judgment and lead to poor results. They open our eyes, teach us to listen and show the returns of being open and agnostic. Unlike a static analysis of a single point in time, human-centered approaches allow us to continuously monitor and respond to changing systems.

Make a real impact - Finally, a human-centered approach provides the tools and processes to design and deliver impact and sustainability. By understanding the dynamics of experience and combining these insights with diverse datasets, the most pressing challenges a community faces more easily identified.  As a result, we can discover and implement innovative solutions to previously perplexing challenges.   

Perhaps this approach sounds an obvious thing to do but so far there has been far too little doing – let’s get busy!  

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