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Using the five safes to structure economic evaluations of data governance

Ritchie, Felix; Whittard, Damian

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Damian Whittard
Associate Professor in Policy & Practice in Economics


As the world has become more digitally-dependent, questions of data governance such as ethics, institutional arrangements and statistical protection measures have increased in significance. Understanding the economic contribution of investments in data sharing and data governance is highly problematic: outputs and outcomes are often widely dispersed and hard to measure, and value of those investments is very context-dependent.
The ‘Five Safes’ is a popular data governance framework. It is used to design and critique data management strategies across the world, and has also been used as a performance framework to measure the effectiveness of data access operations. We report on a novel application of the Five Safes framework: to structure economic evaluation of data governance.
The Five Safes was designed to allow structured investigation into data governance. Combining this with more traditional logic models can provide an evaluation methodology which is practical, reproducible and comparable. We illustrate this by considering the application of the combined logic model-Five Safes framework to data governance for agronomy investments in Ethiopia. We demonstrate how the Five Safes was used to generate the necessary context for a more traditional quantitative study, and consider lessons learned for the wider evaluation of data and data governance investments.


Ritchie, F., & Whittard, D. (2024). Using the five safes to structure economic evaluations of data governance. Data & Policy, 6, Article e16

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 14, 2024
Publication Date 2024
Deposit Date Feb 22, 2024
Publicly Available Date Apr 12, 2024
Journal Data and Policy
Publisher Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 6
Article Number e16
Keywords five safes, confidentiality, economic evaluation, data governance
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