16 December 2015

Africa: Developing Countries At Risk of Missing Out On Big Data Benefits


An international bill of data rights and investment in ICT skills and infrastructure are needed to prevent developing countries missing out on benefits from the 'digital revolution', argues new research by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS).

With 90 percent of data in existence created in just the last two years and the quantity doubling every two years, the new policy briefing 'Ensuring Developing Countries Benefit from Big Data' and report on 'Big Data and International Development', by, Dr Stephen Spratt, looks at the role big data is playing globally and in developing countries. It calls for a more open and transparent international data industry, with corporations and governments allowing citizens greater access and control of the information held about them.

The report finds many opportunities for health and education systems and skills and employment in big data for developing countries, but also uncovers significant risks too. One issue highlighted is the opaque nature of big data decisions, made in secret and currently being undertaken without wider consultation in trade deals such as TTIP and TISA.

Also highlighted is the need for greater consistency between multi-national corporations' approaches to data privacy in countries they operate in around the world and the country in which their organisation is based.

Dr Stephen Spratt, research fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, said: "There are specific opportunities and risks for developing countries with respect to big data that urgently need to be addressed through international and national level policy, investment and further research.

"Countries where historical protection for civil liberties has been poor face particular challenges. A worst case scenario is where such governments can see and use detailed, real-time data about their citizens but information on their activities remains closed. And where corporations obtain, use and sell personal data for their own gain, without any restrictions on their activities, or any requirement that this data is unbiased, or that people have any control over how their personal data is used.

"Overall, much more needs to be done to ensure the risks to developing countries are minimised and the benefits of big data share equitably, not just among rich individuals, corporations and developed nations."

Download the policy briefing 'Ensuring Developing Countries Benefit from Big Data'

Download the report 'Big Data and International Development'


For more information or to arrange interviews with IDS experts, contact Sophie Robinson, IDS, +44 (0)1273 915763, s.s.robinson@ids.ac.uk or out of hours, contact Hannah Corbett, IDS, +44 (0)7701286978, h.corbett@ids.ac.uk

Notes to Editors

TTIP - Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

TISA - Trade in Services Agreement

The report Big Data and International Development: Impacts, Scenarios and Policy Options is co-authored by Stephen Spratt and Justin Baker

For further information on the Digital research cluster at the Institute of Development Studies visit http://www.ids.ac.uk/team/digital

The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) is a leading global institution for development research, teaching and learning, and impact and communications, based at the University of Sussex. Our vision is a world in which poverty does not exist, social justice prevails and economic growth is focused on improving human wellbeing. We believe that research knowledge can drive the change that must happen in order for this vision to be realised. Visit www.ids.ac.uk


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