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Data by indigenous people for indigenous people – An Interview with David Berger

Data by indigenous people for indigenous people – An Interview with David Berger

Indigenous Navigator collects data from indigenous people for indigenous people. In this episode, program coordinator and advisor David Berger, talks to us about monitoring the realisation of Indigenous rights through data.

David Berger from Iwgia speaking at a conference.
David Berger (supplied by David Berger)

Indigenous Navigator is an online set of tools that collects data by indigenous people for indigenous people to monitor the implementation (or lack thereof) of Indigenous rights as expressed in agreements such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Last week, Miriam wrote an excellent post about the initiative and the implementation gap. In this audio episode David Berger, the program coordinator for the Indigenous Navigator and advisor for Iwgia (International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs) speaks to us about the work he does. We dive into topics such as the digital divide between indigenous and non-indigenous communities, the implementation of indigenous rights, as well as the various ways the Indigenous Navigator uses data to combat these issues.

Give it a listen and join in on the conversation by commenting below!

Links to Indigenous Navigator reports:

The impact of COVID-19 on indigenous communities: Insights from the Indigenous Navigator

Implementing the Indigenous Navigator

Further reading:

The UNSR’s report on Indigenous Peoples and COVID-19


    1. Johanna

      It was such a pleasure to hear about the Indigenous Navigator, David! All the best with the project and I’m sure I’ll be hearing about it more in the future.

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  2. Aina Bituin

    Hi Johanna,

    Congratulations on producing a podcast! I can imagine it takes a lot of preparation. The enforcement of indigenous people rights through data is indeed an interesting topic and relevant to our module. It was not clear to me in the interview just exactly how data would enable the protection and enforcement of indigenous people rights. I understand that, as in the example that was used, land rights can be secured by means of tenure which would require data on both the land and the individuals/group. However, this to me seems like a too simple explanation. In my home country land rights of regular citizens, who have documented tenure, are still difficult to protect. Land transferral processes even within inheritance are cumbersome and costly (read de Soto’s The Mystery of Capital ). I worry that forcing indigenous groups to follow these processes may pose more harm than good. Often in countries where indigenous people rights are often violated there has been a long history of distrust to external authoritative powers like national government and also foreign actors. I wonder what risks there are with such a project headed by foreigners and nestled in an international framework.

    It would have also been interesting to hear from David how the Indigenous Navigator is a tool for and by indigenous peoples. Are indigenous peoples the ones deciding what kind of data is being collected; where is the data stored; how does one access it; and who owns the server; are there any control processes to make sure the data is used in an ethical way?



    1. Johanna

      Hi Aina,
      these are definitely good questions. The nature of the tool is that it is the indigenous people who provide the data and have agency over it (they can edit it as they want throughout the process). This data is then used to monitor the realisation of their rights – hence, the data by indigenous people for indigenous people.

      I agree, it would have been interesting to hear more from David but I was trying to keep the episode under a certain time limit so unfortunately I was unable to include everything that was covered in our conversation. If you’re interested to learn more thoroughly about how the data is used for advocacy and holding governments to account, I would suggest the project’s website!

      As per our conversation however it became clear that the Indigenous Navigator takes data and privacy protection very seriously. Not all of the questions you posed came up in our discussion but are surely worth asking.

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