Internet Geographer


Call for papers: The Data Revolution in International Development (Sri Lanka, May 2015)

Richard Heeks and I are organising a track at WG 9.4: Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries on the topic of “The Data Revolution in International Development." 


Richard Heeks (University of Manchester, UK)
Mark Graham (Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, UK)

Many have pointed to a “data revolution” occurring in business, science, and politics.  As ever-more and ever-faster information is available about trends, patterns and processes, then related decision/action systems will be significantly affected.  This track focuses on these changes in the context of international development, given the likelihood that the post-2015 development agenda will include a greatly increased role for data.  This was particularly identified in the 2013 High-Level Panel Report – “A New Global Partnership” – one of the foundations for post-2015 discussions.  The report explicitly calls for a data revolution in international development, and suggests data-related targets for inclusion within the new development goals.

In some ways, the High-Level Panel reflects a reality already underway, and this track invites papers on any aspect of the data revolution in international development, such as:
  • Technical research on new techniques specifically required for capture, input, storage and processing of developing country data.
  • Socio-technical research on the specific issues that arise in analysis and presentation/visualisation of developing country data.
  • Socio-organisational research on the developmental value of new data, and on the transformation of development processes and systems that new data can enable.
  • Critical research on the politics and discourses of the data revolution.
We identify four main strands within the data revolution, which papers might address:

Open development data: the greater availability of developing country datasets for general use.  By far the biggest growth area has been open government data which is particularly linked to improvements in transparency, accountability and service delivery.  But open data can apply equally to private sector firms, markets, NGOs, and other development actors and systems.

Big development data: the emergence of very large datasets relating to phenomena within developing countries.  One main source has been mobile phone call records but there are growing numbers of survey-based, transactional and other large datasets that can offer new insights
into development.

Real-time development data: the availability of developing country data in real time.  To date, lagged models have been dominant within developing country data and decision-making, with data becoming available months or years after the events that it describes.  The growing diffusion of ICTs within developing countries is reducing this lag significantly as crowdsensing – everything from humans reporting via their mobiles to field-based sensors – becomes a reality.  The use of (near) real-time data for development decisions could enable a move to agile methods in development.

Other data trends: open, big and real-time data are three main elements to the data revolution but there will be others that form part of the post-2015 agenda.  These include increases in geo-locatable data, mobile data, bottom-up data, and qualitative data.

Submissions Due: 3rd October 2014

For more information, please contact richard.heeks[at]