Pol31
Digital technologies and the politics of data in Africa

Convenors:
Charlotte Cross (The Open University )
Anna Colom (The Open University)
Stream:
Politics and International Relations
Location:
Room 10
Session slots:
1
Thursday 13 June, 16:15 - 18:00

Short abstract:

Digital technologies are changing how data is produced, accessed and used by governments and citizens in Africa. This panel considers disruptions and connections in how data production, dissemination and use are implicated in political competition.

Long abstract:

Digital technologies are changing how data is produced, accessed and used by governments and citizens in Africa. Social media, e-government and 'data for development' approaches threaten to disrupt prevailing power inequalities and reconfigure state-society relations, potentially increasing transparency and accountability, enhancing service delivery and decision-making and enabling new connections conducive to 'development'. However, continuities are also apparent in how production, access to and use of data is implicated in political competition, whereby governments have sought to control digital dissemination of information, to frame dissenting interpretations of data as 'fake news', to use social media data in their electoral campaigning, and to extend digital surveillance of political opposition and other marginalised groups. Furthermore, connections with international actors, such as development organisations, data analytics firms, social media platforms and other corporations may perpetuate inequalities in access to and control over data. This panel will consider the politics of production of, access to and use of data in Africa. Topics addressed may include, but are not limited to: use of data by governments, political parties, civil society and other actors within political strategies; disruptions and connections in surveillance of digital spaces; the role of international actors in shaping production of, access to and use of digital data; accountability, transparency and service delivery; tensions between narratives and ethics of openness and data privacy; citizenship and state-society relations; expansion of biometrics; digital data and elections; the role of the law and security providers in the politics of data; and implications for conducting research in Africa.