DSA2018: Global inequalities
- Silvia Masiero (Loughborough University) email
- Linnet Taylor (Tilburg University) email
- Gianluca Iazzolino (London School of Economics and Political Science) email
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.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
National Biometric ID Systems and Social Welfare Schemes: A focus on local government
National biometric systems have been launched in developing countries to improve the delivery of subsidies to marginalised communities. Drawing on the case of Aadhaar, this paper investigates the role of sub-national government agencies in improving governance and promoting development.
National biometric identity systems are a recent e-governance reform initiative that aims to provide a platform for implementing social welfare programmes in developing countries. However, beyond providing a unique identity to those previously excluded from social welfare benefits and reducing leakages in the system, little is known about the benefits that have accrued to local communities. India's biometric identity system, Aadhaar, is a major initiative aimed at improving subsidy dispersal to disadvantaged communities and in this paper, we investigate a fertiliser subsidy distribution system which has been piloted in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. Our findings emphasize the important role of sub-national government agencies and local institutions in enacting processes necessary for improving fertiliser subsidy dispersal. At the policy level, while the financing and regulatory frameworks for biometric identity systems is centralised, it is the knowledge and resources of local agencies that is crucial for governance reform of social welfare programs to occur.
Datafication and Political Power
The paper examines the effects of datafication in the context of a government social cash program in Pakistan, and how it affected power relations of actors in the program.
While many social cash programs are digitizing cash transfers in developing countries, there is very little understanding on the effects of datafication on the disbursement process. Hence, the paper examines how the datafication in a government benefits program in Pakistan devolved power and control from centralized state actors to women beneficiaries and other public/private institutions. As datafication enabled beneficiaries' information to be shared with other institutional actors, such collaborative and decentralized procedures shifted the power dynamics of political actors and created new structures of authority in the program. As contribution, the paper sheds light on how the datafication process was perceived as a surveillance mechanism which increased governance through enacting disciplinary processes in the organization. It is also argued how datafication led to empowerment and political inclusion of women by providing them an independent platform to access state and financial services.
Keywords: datafication, political power, digital payments, political inclusion, governance, developing countries, Pakistan
Datafication and the governance of cross-border data flows
The rules governing data flows across borders are a key factor in influencing where value is captured in a datafied economy. In this paper, we explore the governance of cross-border data flows with a focus on developing and emerging economies.
Value in the economy is increasingly tied to data. The datafication of physical goods such as cars, household products and electronic devices means that firms often capture value through data or data-based services even when they provide a product. Global production processes are also becoming more datafied, where digitally-integrated machines and sensors provide ever more data to aid optimisation of production.
Reflecting the rapid digitization of the global economy, debates around the rules that govern data collection, retention and flows are expanding. Such rules will have important implications for economic and technological power. More broadly, the global governance emerging around data flows is liable to shape the trajectories of national development of both developed and developing countries in the future.
In this paper, we explore the governance of cross-border data flows with a focus on developing and emerging economies. We highlight three contested modes of governance emerging. From a more interventionist perspective, larger emerging economies have sought to shape data flows within their borders as a way to benefit their economies. On the other hand, weaker developing nations are being pushed to commit to liberalise their data flows, particularly through the ways that data flows are being associated with free trade agreements. Finally, some nations have also looked to leverage data protection rules as a way of shape data flows, both inside and outside their own borders.
Such work is vital in that it explores macro-level drivers which shape the broader structures of data use, rights and wider economic development.
Data Protection Law as a Factor for Development: datafication in smart cities, digital agriculture and digital health in Brazil
This paper presents the argument that Data Protection Law is a relevant factor for social, economic and political development. It then explores the consequences of the lack of a data protection framework in Brazil in three sectors: public WiFi in smart cities, digital agriculture and digital health.
Much like some other developing countries, Brazil is yet to enact specific legislation for data protection. This is not to say that Data Protection Law does not exist in Brazil, but that there is no single comprehensive law regulating the subject. Rather, handling of data and rights of users are roughly regulated by many sparse principles of Privacy Law and general statutes, such as a Civil Rights Framework for the Internet, a Civil Code and a Consumer Protection Code. For this reason, issues that are quintessential to discussing Data Protection Law, such as user consent for data treatment, anonymization requirements, international transfer of data and the limits of behavioral digital advertising remain largely unregulated. We introduce the idea that the absence of a proper data protection framework in Brazil hinders users' awareness of their basic rights concerning their personal data, as well as private players' ability of understanding the extent to which they are legally allowed to economically exploit such data. Firstly, we argue that this legal void constitutes an obstacle for social, economic and political development, since it also obstructs government's capacity of devising both public and public-private policies based on data that equally consider legitimacy, fairness and efficiency. Then, in order to demonstrate this argument, we present case studies on three sectors in Brazil that have been hindered by the lack of a proper data protection framework (public WiFi policies in smart cities, drones in digital agriculture and digital health). Finally, we draw some conclusions on the study.
Datafication, Value and Power in International Development: Big Data in Two Indian Public Service Organisations
Big data in two Indian public service organisations - electricity and transportation - is delivering value more at operational than strategic level. It facilitates upward and outward shifts in power, and changes "imaginaries" that enable political agendas to be advanced.
Primary research into datafication - growing presence and application of data - in processes of international development, has so far been limited. This paper presents field study of big data in two state-level Indian public service organisations. In the electricity case, big data derives from installation of hundreds of thousands of digital meters. In the bus transportation case, big data derives from installation of thousands of vehicle tracking systems and electronic ticketing machines. Implementation in both cases has been delayed and problematic; in part arising from gaps between design assumptions and contextual realities. However, both systems are operational and datafication is having an impact.
Organisational value from datafication - understood here via the information value chain model - arises from changes to decision-making processes. This value is emerging more strongly at present at the operational than tactical and strategic levels of decision-making.
However, datafication is also entangling with organisational power and wider politics, given the politicised nature of public services in India. Big data is facilitating a shift in the configuration of internal power; upwards from labour to management, and from middle to central management. It is also associated with some power shift from public service organisations to the private firms that run the big data systems.
More broadly, big data interacts with politics by changing the "imaginaries" of wider stakeholders. It offers a veneer of modernity for vocal middle-class consumers. For managers and politicians, it offers a new vision of public services through which particular agendas and interests can be advanced.
Rations, smart cards and internet centres: how biometric technology affects social protection in Tamil Nadu, India
Explores the effects of biometric technologies on social protection policies in Tamil Nadu. Considers how the poor experience new technologies, how access to social welfare is affected, and new forms of inclusion and exclusion. Explores how new technologies transform patterns of patronage.
This article focuses on the effects of biometric technologies on social protection policies and in turn on poor, rural households in India. Drawing on recent ethnographic research from Tamil Nadu, it presents evidence of how new technologies are experienced by recipients of welfare schemes, and explores the impact of these new technologies on inclusion or exclusion from those schemes. The paper looks in particular at 'Smart cards', the new ration card linked to Aadhaar identity numbers, which were rolled in ration shops across Tamil Nadu from mid-2017. Across the state, ration shops have moved from entirely paper-based systems of management and recording, using ledgers and ration books with handwritten entries, to an automated system that uses smart cards, a smart card 'reader,' and mobile technologies. In this paper, we analyse the ways in which access to social welfare is affected by such new technologies for social protection, and the new forms of inclusion and exclusion that they produce. Secondly, we describe how ration recipients experience the use of such new technologies, and how they perceive the innovations that they encounter as they collect their rations. Finally, the paper explores how technological transformations produce new forms of mediation, including a new role for private actors such as internet centres. We examine how such private actors could potentially transform existing patterns of mediation by bypassing older networks of patronage.
'Lean on Me': Documents, Policy Change & the Enactment of Sifarish in a North Indian City
This paper traces shifts within the Indian state towards increasing digitisation of Public Distribution Systems (PDS) and ID provision. The paper considers the implications these material changes have for everyday relations between the state, low-level netas (politicians) and those they represent.
This paper traces the effect of shifts within the Indian state towards increasing digitisation of Public Distribution Systems (PDS) and ID provision, a process bound up not only in the construction of the Indian state but also within global processes of technological and ideological change. Specifically, the paper considers the ways in which material changes, which seek a move away from a state bureaucracy shaped through paperwork and documents to a 'rationalised' digital apparatus, have complex implications for everyday relations between the state, low-level netas (politicians) and those they represent. In this context, the emphasis falls onto the practice of sifarish (obtaining a recommendation/ putting pressure on or leaning on someone to get something done), the exercise of which is key to legitimising the authority of local netas and other political actors. However, as avenues of access to the state become increasingly digitised, the ability of netas and others to navigate channels of influence are disrupted, potentially undermining their position in the eyes of those who gave them their votes. The ethnographic setting is the relatively poor and often marginalised Muslim mohallas (neighbourhoods) of the provincial North Indian city of Saharanpur. As such, the paper also considers the ways in which technological change intersects with processes of marginalisation and inclusion/exclusion.
Data and development: the privacy lens and the "empowering" nature of data
There is a disconnect in the development field: for all the discourse about the importance of data for development, and its role in the establishment of people as "visible" and "empowered", the safety and security of the data is often held in reckless disregard.
The datafication of development brings with it many issues that have begun to be critiqued by discourses like "data justice". Yet as we are approaching the broader geographies of power that data brings, this has to be within the context in which the level of protection and security placed on that data is often very low. There is a disconnect in the development field: for all the discourse about the importance of data for development, and its role in the establishment of people as "visible" and "empowered", the safety and security of the data is often held in reckless disregard.
A number of examples are included in this. Fintech firms in countries with limited legal and regulatory regimes for the protection of data gather vast amounts of data. The goal of the initiatives based on Aadhaar is to make the nation "data-rich", yet at the same time there are data breaches affecting millions. The data protection practises of development and humanitarian agencies potentially put beneficiaries at risk.
This paper is based upon research conducted by Privacy International and our network of partners, including fieldwork in Kenya and India and our work with development and humanitarian agencies. This paper will use themes from data protection and security to develops a critique of the development sector's rush towards data-intensive systems without their considering the consequences for the people they purport to support
Big Data and Healthcare Industry: Adoption of Electronic Health Record in Iran
Clinicians often base their understanding of information on an incomplete grasp of reality on the ground which may lead to poor health outcomes. But new technological innovations and big data if utilised and harnessed effectively have the potential to improve health outcomes and address inequalities
The global healthcare landscape is changing. Healthcare services are becoming ever more digitised with the adoption of new innovations and mobile technologies. This has resulted in creating huge amounts of data which goes beyond the hospitals' wall. So-called big data is able to provide a stronger evidence base for more effective and efficient medical interventions. Therefore, there is growing enthusiasm for harnessing big data sources for the purpose of improved care and better management.
Big data has been used in different areas of healthcare including data-driven medical research and public health infrastructures, clinical health care, and self-care practices. Focusing on clinical health care domain, this paper analyses the introduction of Electronic Health Records (EHR) in Iranian hospitals. EHR are intrinsically big because of their complexity and number of patients and amounts of data on each patient.
Iranian ministry of health has recently introduced a cohesive national EHR system, known as SEPAS. Electronic health files have been created for at least 70% of the people in every province and provide real-time and patient-centred records. Although a few studies have been conducted about Iranian EHR, the focus is mostly on collecting and storing data rather than on datafication. Using qualitative exploratory research design, one hospital in Iran, is selected to conduct an empirical study to assess this system. This provides an opportunity to understand potentials and challenges of datafication in healthcare as well as understanding how datafication transforms the roles of different actors.
The empowerment of community health workers in public health service delivery: a mobile technology perspective
This research purposes to understand the role mobile communication technologies play in the inclusion of community health workers (representatives of community health) into the existing health information systems (HIS).
Mobile communication technologies have been integrated into existing health information systems (HIS) to enhance the provision and supervision of health workers in numerous developing countries such as India, Brazil, Kenya, Indonesia etc. In particular, the use of mobile phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) have been noted in the monitoring of pregnancies, for treatment, and for post-natal healthcare support at the district level. Our focus in this research lies not in understanding the engineered functions provided to technology by virtue of its design. But to understand the social changes that are brought about by technology in broader institutional practices.
We look at how the recursive use of mobile technology by health workers in their routine health service delivery creates opportunities for empowerment for them in the existing health structure. Empowerment here is conceptualized as 'having a voice'. Here the translation of purely functional technological use to creation of spaces for empowerment is seen wherein health workers who were formerly regarded as tools for data collection and reporting are now seen as important agents in public health service delivery and management.
"Finding deceivers": discussing the use of database cross-checking as a technique to audit Brazilian social programmes
This paper presents recent developments on the use of database cross-checking process to audit the Single Registry, main registration for Brazilian social programmes. Rather than a technical solution, the datafication of realities into numbers carries political decisions and contested knowledges.
As the leading gateway to social programs in Brazil, the Single Registry (Cadastro Único) complies socio-economic information about more than 80 million people. As most of the information provided is self-declared, the Single Registry is the object of constant control by national auditing organizations since its creation, what has compelled the establishment of numerous verification mechanisms through database cross-checking. By using other registries from the Federal Government, those processes aim at identifying possible "frauds" committed by beneficiaries in the interviews, in order to reach the eligibility criteria.
This paper is part of ethnographic research undertaken in the Ministry of Social Development in 2016/2017, in a changing institutional and political context. It analyses the State-making through two routes: i) "from persons to numbers", which refers to simplifications of multiple and complex realities into legible formats by the State, involving different human and non-human interactions; and ii) "from numbers to persons", that concerns decision-making processes based on data that reaches the bureaucratic administration. It concludes discussing recent database cross-checking exercises conducted to identify "frauds" in the Bolsa Familia Programme, which led to the exclusion of 500 thousand families.
As numbers, life existences can be compared, monitored, and audited, allowing the State to govern, by distance, numbers which define "poverty". However, this process is far from being mere technical. From the registration to the moment a social benefit reaches a person, many intersecting variables might intervene, involving economic, social and political aspects, as well as contested and stigmatized notions of poverty.
The role of datification in monitoring and evaluation of official development assistance
The study explores the effects of datafication on monitoring and evaluation of official development assistance (ODA). Building on the concept of social shaping of technology, it traces the process of measurement of ODA and discuss how the current phenomenon of datafication reshape the field of aid.
In the global field of development, monitoring and evaluation with the use of indicators and indexes for assessing success and failure of aid activities have rapidly been increasing. Monitoring and evaluation frameworks and indicators for official development assistance (ODA) are often developed by rule-making organizations such as powerful international development agencies. These phenomena have two important characteristics. First, such measurements has been globally diffused beyond the borders of states and has become internationally standardized. Thus it reflects the power dynamics of global aid governance. Second, there was growing preference for quantification and statistical analysis by using diverse indicators. Considering this trend, attention needs to be paid to: who creates, drives and promote measurement and indicators of ODA? how does the current trend of datafication affect this process? These questions can be answered by investigating the nature of measurements and indicators in question. Building on the concept of social shaping of technology, this study traces the process of measuring, indexing and categorizing ODA and assess the effect of datafication in the processes. In particular, this paper explores the case of the Organisations for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Creditor Reporting System (CRS) and an emerging concept of International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) aid standard, and discuss how the current phenomenon of datafication reshape the power dynamic in the global field of aid.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.