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

L. Taylor, D. Broeders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

We examine the current ‘datafication’ process underway in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), and the power shifts it is creating in the field of international development. 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. We 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. We explore the resulting shift from legibility (Scott, 1998) to visibility, and the implications of seeing development interventions as a byproduct of larger-scale processes of informational capitalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-237
Number of pages9
JournalGeoforum
Volume64
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

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In the name of Development: Power, profit and the datafication of the global South. / Taylor, L.; Broeders, D.

In: Geoforum, Vol. 64, 2015, p. 229-237.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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AB - We examine the current ‘datafication’ process underway in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), and the power shifts it is creating in the field of international development. 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. We 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. We explore the resulting shift from legibility (Scott, 1998) to visibility, and the implications of seeing development interventions as a byproduct of larger-scale processes of informational capitalism.

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