2.7 Published information and documentary material

There is usually a lot of published material, often statistical, and usually from government sources that can be drawn upon. Some of this will be information about the specific locality in which your initiative works, but much of it will be national or regional (state or district level) information.

Both might be useful or essential for understanding either the broader context of your initiative, or for understanding features of a locality. Moreover it can give you a good idea of official classifications - for example, who is classified as 'below poverty line' and by what criteria?

Official definitions of things like poverty will have important impacts on poor communities, and might be either in accordance with local understandings of what it is to be poor, or in opposition to them.

Some sources for local, regional and national information:

  • A national census
  • Figures and information published by local, state and national government
  • Specific government ministries such as health, education etc.
  • NGO's or International organisations such as the United Nations Development Program
  • Local schools or libraries
  • Universities and other Research Institutions

Some official information that may be useful for your research:

  • Information on demographics, economics, social indicators and welfare provision.
  • Demographic information on the basic features of a population, like total size, distribution of ages, occupations, ethnicities, and so on.
  • Information on income and expenditures, economic sectors (trade, industry, agriculture and service), government spending and borrowing.
  • Social indicators on health and education, as well as figures on the provision of transport, electricity, water and so on

The bulk of this information will come from local, state and national government sources - which can generally be accessed directly, or through libraries and, increasingly, the Internet. However, it is also good to contact relevant NGOs as well as academic information resources (such as university libraries).

Internet searches will also generally turn up statistics published by organizations such as the World Bank, IMF, UN and others that are often very useful to compare a local situation to a national one, to other countries and regions.

Remember always to treat such data with caution - no one report or set of data alone can tell the whole picture, and statistics can be presented in ways that disguise important local variations and exceptions. This kind of data often counts occurrences (e.g. number of children attending school) without telling you anything about the quality of education imparted.

Not all published information is statistical. It is also important to know about relevant policies and regulatory frameworks. For example, does your country have a national telecommunications or ICT policy? Does your State have one? Who is the minister responsible? And how is the policy implemented?

Policy documents can usually be obtained through a relevant ministry. Information on broadcasting and other media policies will provide any ICT project with an important contextualising framework. It might, in time, be possible to provide research findings that can be used to inform national or local policies in these areas.

These official statistics, policies and other background information can give a useful reference point, which will add to the bigger picture being built up, just like any other research tool in the toolbox.