Sep 23–26, 2019

Looking beyond the binary: How the lack of a gender data collection standard impacts users

Brindaalakshmi K (Independent Consultant)
5:25pm6:05pm Wednesday, September 25, 2019
Location: 1E 14

Who is this presentation for?

Programmers and policymakers in different organisations who are interested in questions of diversity and representation in big data analysis, will gain from this session.




Assuming that a given database collects data of individuals with the intent of serving the same group with specific services, then designing of this database would require an understanding of this set of individuals. Among the different kinds of data collected about these individuals, suppose only the gender of every individual were to be considered, do data collection processes (especially in a developing country) collect data about individuals of all genders?

According the UN Women in its report titled, Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 2018, currently, there is no international standard for collecting and measuring gender identity data. This has resulted in a lack of data about those who are vulnerable to discrimination and inequality because they identify outside the binary genders of male and female. This often translates to a lack of standard at the national level in different countries and thereby results in the lack of correct data about individuals who may identify outside the binary genders.

Gendering of Development data in India: Beyond the Binary is a qualitative study done by Brindaalakshmi.K for the Centre for Internet & Society as part of the Big Data for Development Networks backed by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada. This study looked into the development data collection initiatives in India to question the inherent assumption that large-scale data sets are the best reference points for designing development solutions such as welfare schemes especially for marginalised groups like the transgender community.

This study has attempted to understand how transgender communities want to be included in state-level, national, and global enumeration processes so that they can effectively access necessary services, and the opportunities of responsible enumeration and representations offered to them by digital technologies.

Using the findings from this study, this session will look at the gaps in data collection processes especially for a large scale process like that of Census and its effects on the designing of services and the processes to access these services. With gendering of development data in India as a case study, this session will explore the design of an identity marker, digitisation of the identification process and the resultant data.

This session will look at some areas such as healthcare, financial services, education, among others, in which individuals outside the binary genders get excluded due to the lack of an inclusive data collection process. This session seeks to answer some questions including: Is this lack of inclusion in data collection limited to public services? Are private sector services more inclusive of all genders? How do individuals outside the binary want to be enumerated into different data systems? Are digital technologies the solution to the problems of data exclusion? Have digital technologies really solved the problem of marginalisation for a marginalised group? What role does privacy play with such a group? Are data systems stuck in a vicious cycle that emphasizes on the need for more data which only results in more bad quality data? How does this vicious cycle of ‘the need for data’ sidestep the responsibility of service providers to meet the needs of users and in case of governments, its citizens?

Prerequisite knowledge

Concerns or curiosity about inclusion of queer citizens of the world, especially from developing countries

What you'll learn

Attendees will understand the need for a robust design of data collection processes to ensure that any data system is not far from reality. An awareness about inherent biases may be insufficient to design data collection processes especially when enumerating marginalised groups. This session will help them in understanding the finer nuances of how the lack of a robust design can impact lives. The audience will gain from this session in terms of learning about the limitations of current practices of data collection, its limitations, social and data justice for people.

Brindaalakshmi K

Independent Consultant

Brindaalakshmi.K is a communication strategist, peer supporter, writer, researcher and activist, working at the intersection of gender, sexuality and technology.
Communication Strategy and Writing:
Journalist: She has been a journalist for over 7 years and has written extensively on business, technology and gender & sexuality as a journalist with multiple publications including YourStory, MediaNama, Hidden Pockets, Varta, among others.
Brand marketing consultant: She has worked on the brand communication of global brands including Allen Solly, redBus, Adobe, VMWare, Red Hat, PAYBACK, 3M Car Care, 3M Bike Care, among others.
In 2018, she designed and executed an exclusive marketing, public relations and advocacy campaign, reach OUT for a queer-friendly health and legal services locator launched by Varta Trust, SAATHII and Grindr For Equality in 16 Indian states
Policy Advocacy & Consultations: She has presented at and contributed to several National and State level policy consultations pertaining to the representation of the youth & children and sexual minorities in different policies including
National Consultation on the Legal Interventions for Reproductive & Sexual Health (2017),
National Consultation on Economic Inclusion of Transgender Persons in India (2017),
Foresight Forum on National Child Protection Policy (2018)
Consultation on LGBTIQA+ Workplace Inclusion in India (2019)
Research: She’s presently working on a research on Gendering of Development Data in India: Beyond the Binary for the Centre for Internet & Society for the Big Data for Development Network backed by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada
Peer Support: As a peer supporter, she has supported members of the LGBTIQA+ community on issues ranging from divorce, rape, marital rape and rescue, among others. She also leads workshops on consent, safer sex, among others for the youth

Brindaa’s preferred pronouns are she/her/they.

Leave a Comment or Question

Help us make this conference the best it can be for you. Have questions you'd like this speaker to address? Suggestions for issues that deserve extra attention? Feedback that you'd like to share with the speaker and other attendees?

Join the conversation here (requires login)

Contact us

For conference registration information and customer service

For more information on community discounts and trade opportunities with O’Reilly conferences

For information on exhibiting or sponsoring a conference

Contact list

View a complete list of Strata Data Conference contacts