Kalsoom Lakhani

Can Better Data Sharing Help Solve Pakistan’s Education Emergency?: Developyst’s platform is for NGOs, policy makers and educators to make better decisions

There is an education emergency in Pakistan. In 2005-2006, the country spent just 2.5 percent of its budget on education. In 2011, that shrunk further to under 1.5 percent. Twenty-six countries are poorer than Pakistan, but send more children to primary school. Today, 17 million school-age children are not in school.

The statistics are shocking, to say the least. While efforts to improve these statistics in the education sector are notable, there is much to be done. Enter Developyst, Pakistan’s first social enterprise in education with a vision to champion data-driven development. The Developyst platform, which will be launched in 2013, aims to be a space for education stakeholders to grow and develop their network by providing access to data in interactive and visually diverse ways. Effective and much-needed knowledge sharing can take place, and subsequent collective dialogue and action on key education-related issues can begin: thereby enhancing user engagement in the education sector, and catalyzing policy-advocacy, change and progress in the sector.

“Developyst aims to enable end-to-end experience for data users allowing creation of highly visual, interactive dashboards with a combination of text, tables, charts and maps,” says co-founder T. Keyzom Ngodup. The online platform will be a one-stop information repository and infrastructure that will allow its users – education stakeholders and ordinary citizens – to use data to make better and informed decisions for education reform and to develop local solutions.

For the education sector, where data collection by various agencies and organizations is common practice, the value proposition by Developyst is significant. Ngodup noted, “Although data is a driving force behind education reform, it cannot lead to improvement by itself in isolation.” The key is how data is presented, the context in which it is presented, and the environment in which it is delivered. These factors, she said, “are crucial to catalyze development in education.”

Developyst is the brainchild of three friends – Suhair Khan, Natasha Qamar and T. Keyzom Ngodup – all former classmates at Cornell University and all united in their desire to leverage their respective experiences to make a positive impact. “We narrowed in on Pakistan for several reasons: the tremendous opportunity and few players yet in the market,” says Ngodup. “In Pakistan, a limited access to and unreliability of data has led to a management culture where qualitative and quantitative data is just an afterthought or an added advantage to decision-making processes, not an essential component.”

Developyst hopes to address this gap, providing easy and regular availability of credible data that can reform this culture and help stakeholders – like NGOs, educators, and policy makers – make better decisions for the education sector. Stronger data means more informed decisions, allowing policy-makers to identify and expose problems in the sector pertaining to their constituencies or general populations, and build necessary political will for reform. The Developyst platform can also help in replicating what’s going right – highlighting more effective teachers and teaching practices, and allowing for mechanisms to improve the capacity of teachers – a key issue in the education sector in Pakistan.

Developyst’s strategy team, designers, cartographers, and data analysts work closely together to create products to illustrate education-related data, making it legible and accessible through maps and other narratives that will be available on the platform. Developyst plans to generate revenue via advertisements on their platform, selling specialized derivatives of their data analytics to organizations, and providing consulting services to help other organizations unleash the stories and trends behind their data collection.

The enterprise is taking a big picture approach to sector reform, but the team is also passionate about the dialogue around data and the broader need for data-driven development. Developyst will organize and facilitate an annual data-driven dialogue conference in Pakistan, which aims to bring sector stakeholders together to discuss data challenges, facilitate resources for data uniformity, and link data to other sectors’ data relevant to education: nutrition, finance, investment potential. The beta-version of the Developyst platform will be launched at the first conference – slated to take place in early 2013.

Until then, the team is hard at work at building the network, talking to key players, and making this platform a demand-driven and community-owned resource that can truly make an impact on sector reform.

Education, Technology