This panel will explore the effects of data on international development, with a focus on the geographies of inclusion and exclusion stemming from datafication. It will examine the new forms of power that datafication creates, and how extant development theories can be extended to make sense of it.
The conversion of many processes into machine-readable data, known as datafication, has affected markets in low- and middle-income countries, as well as state-level frameworks for service provision. Research on datafication shows that it has shifted existing balances of power, from a state-centred world to one in which power is linked to data ownership and control. Technical rationalities link data to a world of more effective service provision, where machine readability ensures smooth delivery of entitlements to the marginalised. Conversely, more socially embedded views illustrate the contradictions of datafication, particularly as it converges with processes of financialisation enabling corporate actors to extract value from customers through the mining, processing and marketisation of their personal data. The obliviousness of the data value chain raises issues of fairness, ownership and redress, that emerging research on data justice sets out to examine. This panel invites papers that explore the effects of data on international development, and especially the geographies of inclusion and exclusion that datafication creates. How does datafication influence development processes? Which new geographies of power does it create, and how does it reinforce, reshape or reconstruct existing ones? How do new conceptual frameworks, such as theorisations of data justice, matter to understanding the processes into play? Who wins and who loses out of the data revolution, and how are extant theories of development and dependency extended to make sense of this phenomenon? We encourage papers that engage with datafication from multiple disciplines, and illuminate its consequences for diverse aspects of development.