BIG DATA and the GDELT project

By Gianni Giosue

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 20.00.20This website will take you directly to the genesis of the GDELT project which came to light “from a desire to better understand global human society and especially the connection between communicative discourse and physical societal-scale behaviour.” So far so good!

My question is how they manage to do this? Well, the GDELT project uses data mining algorithms to monitor and extract data coming from a “massive network diagram connecting every person, organizations, locations and theme to this event database.”

The information comes from various locations such as: AfricaNews, Agence France Presse, BBC Monitoring, Christian Science Monitor which are then harvested thanks to Google Ideas, Google and Google News, JSTOR, DTIC and the Internet Archive among the others.

I don’t know about you, but it makes my head spinning if I start to think that this project “consists of over a quarter-billion event records in over 300 categories covering the entire world from 1979 to present.” That makes A LOT of DATA.

Those who worry about the dangers of the Digital Divide should also take into consideration, the consequences of the Digital Grand Canyon of Data disparity. It is similar to what we say about our parents. “They know everything about us, but we know little about them”. In other words, since the GDELT project is connected to partners such as Google and Twitter and other social networks, I have the feeling that our conversations, opinions, culinary tastes and next travel destination are already on their way to be recorded somewhere in the dark recesses of the digital galaxy…

Basically once digital information is produced, it can be tracked and analyzed. So the next distinction should be about data which is “generated actively or passively and voluntarily or involuntarily”(King, 2011).

For example a form of involuntary passive digital data production are the comments on Twitter or mobile phone locations.(Andrews,2012). The same Twitter comments which contained important information about the spread of the cholera outbreak and were available two weeks before the official statistics.(Chunara, Andrews and Brownstein, 2012). These comments were reaped and used to reach an understanding of the situation.

Location data coming from mobile phones users in Haiti was also used to locate population movements during the cholera crisis. In this respect Big Data was useful in helping aid agencies workers to assess and respond better during an extreme volatile situation, such as a tropical developing country, which had been hit by a massive earthquake and risks a disease outbreak.


Hilbert, Martin (2013), Big Data for Development: From Information-to Knowledge Societies, Annenberg School of Communication, University of South California (USC)

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  1. DTIC

    The world of internet business and the true information of today.

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