Accepted paper:

Is data justice really 'just'? Reconceptualising datafication for socio-economic development


Atika Kemal (Essex University )

Paper short abstract:

The paper signifies the relevance of adopting a more interpretive approach in defining datafication for social justice, and whether current approaches are actually 'just' in socio-economic development initiatives.

Paper long abstract:

Whilst current research on data justice primarily aims to establish the nexus between datafication and socio-economic development in developing countries, there is limited understanding on how datafication may also create disparities leading to data 'injustice'. As government organisations collect and share 'big data' on populations to make them visible to undertake development initiatives, such an approach is deemed to be data-centric that is rooted in objectivism and reduces people to mere data artefacts. Hence, the study proposes an alternative framework that aims to demystify any current approaches on data justice in order to interpret the data justice 'reality' through the interpretive lens of citizens. It theorises that the datafication process caters to the diverse interests of multiple actors in society /institutions. It favours a citizen-centric approach on defining datafication that reflects the perceptions of society. As contribution the study signifies citizen's concern for data visibility, especially 'visibility for whom' within a data driven economy, so whether datafication is actually 'just'. This discourse becomes particularly meaningful when citizen data is shared with other institutional partners without citizen's knowledge or consent. The study takes a critical and ethical stance in questioning the fundamental principles and values of data justice in a country like Pakistan, especially in the absence of any legal and regulatory framework for digital data protection and privacy. Hence, the study has implications for public/ private organisations and regulatory institutions in influencing policy-making and practices concerned with the legal aspects of datafication in promoting social justice.

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Justice, peace and rights
Digital development [paper]