Reading Development

Random readings on society, politics and change – Jorge Carrillo

In the name of Development: power, profit and the datafication of the global South

There is currently a ‘datafication’ process underway in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) which is shifting power in the field of international development away from traditional actors such as aid donors and toward multinational corporations. The use of new communications and database technologies in LMICs is generating ‘big data’ (for example from the use of mobile phones, mobile-based financial services and the internet) which is collected and processed by corporations. When shared, these data are also becoming a potentially valuable resource for development research and policy. With these new sources of data, new power structures are emerging within the field of development. I will identify two trends in particular, illustrating them with examples: first, the empowerment of public-private partnerships around datafication in LMICs and the consequently growing agency of corporations as development actors. Second, the way commercially generated big data is becoming the foundation for country-level ‘data doubles’, i.e. digital representations of social phenomena and/or territories that are created in parallel with, and sometimes in lieu of, national data and statistics. I will outline the potential risks and repercussions of these shifts in power relations between donor countries, LMIC governments and corporate actors.

[Read article in The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences]

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This entry was posted on Thursday, 2 July 2015 by in Innovation and tagged , , , .
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