14 December 2015

Africa: Ensuring Developing Countries Benefit From Big Data

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With 90 percent of data in existence created in just the last two years and the quantity doubling every two years, a new policy briefing 'Ensuring Developing Countries Benefit from Big Data' and report on 'Big Data and International Development', examine the role big data is playing globally and in developing countries.

Risks in the digital revolution era

In the 'digital revolution' era, IDS research fellow Dr Stephen Spratt 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.

Global and national policy recommendations

The report and policy briefing call 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. Further global and national policy recommendations include an international bill of data rights and investment in ICT skills and infrastructure in order to prevent developing countries from missing out on big data benefits.

Multi-national digital corporations

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:

"Developing countries face particular challenges with respects to rights, as historically protection for civil liberties is not encouraging in many cases. A worst case scenario is one where government can see citizen data but information on government activities remains closed, and where corporations offering internet access to people developing countries do so on the condition of targeted advertising and right to use data in exchange.

"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."

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