Studying the Data Revolution

Data is a big question mark at the moment in development. It seems to be everywhere, lot of things are happening, revolutions are taking place and people are given voices; but the question remains, whether changes happen through social media or traditional development operations. How to measure it?

Open University of UK presenting the Digital Diaspora of BBC

Open University of UK presenting the Digital Diaspora of BBC

Aday et al. (2010:6) claim that the “journalistic accounts usually prefer good stories to complex arguments — and, in particular, heroic accounts of scrappy activists to serious examination of how new media affect political action.” I would have to argue, that it’s not only us journalists, how seem to be in the hype of new media, but rather the development activists themselves. Making a good story requires much more than 140 characters’ messages.

At the same time there are many tools for studying the real dynamics of networks and content. I want to bring up few methods that I find extremely interesting myself.

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The why, what and how of a global data revolution

In retrospect, all revolutions seem inevitable. Beforehand, all revolutions seem impossible (Michael McFaul)

In the end of 2013, Centre for Global Development, organised an event to discuss the why, what and how of data revolution together with the Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS21). In this very interesting discussion, the argument is made that data, used properly, is power, data empowers and leads to empowerment. However, the what, why and how questions needs some revolutionary thought. We need to find a common definition, and a new global partnership on development data. Continue reading

The tweets have it, the tweets have it. Social media and data – why we need to put it into context, part II

Can the use of data – without relating to its context – and the use of social media without political action offline combined with excluding practices in agenda-setting environments actually lead to a decline in good informative data and a further misrepresentation in the political system? Informative data needs to stand on elaborate and including democratic practices, and it must be used to not only to tell us how things are, but most importantly it needs to be used in political decision making in such a way that it does not maintain the status quo. It should be backed up by substantial political initiatives that commit to sustainable development. Continue reading

Social media and data – why we need to put it into context, part I

The possibilities to communicate your reality has opened up for through the use new media. Today, an increasing number of people all over the world can through social media and online activism coordinate opinions and ideas. Technology is there, and there is technical possibility for social media to provide new data with the inclusion of traditionally excluded actors. But if this data is not used for transformative measures in the political arena, then what role does data in the end actually play? Because what is the use of data if it’s not used or used properly? Is data really answering the right questions, and does it really help transform people’s lives for the better? Could it be that this is the future of better decision-making, and perhaps a qualitatively better democracy? Or could it be that the use, or misuse, of data actually creates a divide and ever growing distance between citizens and political decision makers? Continue reading

Data journalism is a tool for development

What is development data? Academics argue that the internet has given voice for many marginalized communities and has widely regarded as groundbreaking invention that have changed the way millions of people live their lives. (Leah Lievrouw and Dorothea Kleine)

Still Kleine argues that researchers and practitioners in the field of ICT and development often struggle to prove specific impacts of the technology to funders (Journal of International Development, 2010).

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