Oct 17

Is BIG DATA against of for low-income countries?

Goda, October 18.

The development of new ICTs has brought many changes into our day to day life. These technologies are often seen as being undoubtedly good with the recognised capacity to make the world better. Big data is one of the key elements of it. According to Spratt & Baker big data is the belief which offers new and higher knowledge ‘with the aura of truth, objectivity, and accuracy” (Spratt & Baker, 2015).

However, my last post will be focused on Unwin’s argument that even if the purpose and introduction of such technology has a potential to do good, quite often this potential has negative outcomes, especially for poor and marginalized communities. Moreover, although big data is seen as offering new solutions for development issues (Spratt & Baker, 2015), it is mainly focused on “what is”, rather than on “what should be” (Unwin, 2017).

Big data benefits and risks have been discussed in all our previous posts from many different perspectives and illustrated by using different examples. As mentioned earlier, it can be used for various decision-making models. It can create added value or be used for manipulative purposes. So, as data becomes all-pervasive in our lives, it is getting more difficult indeed to achieve a right balance between possibilities and dangers of it.

bid data lowincome countries

According to Unwin, big data is designed “with particular interests in mind, and unless poor people are prioritized in such design they will not be the net beneficiaries“ (Unwin, 2017). In other words, big data primarily maintains the interests of governments or shareholders and it is much less interested in the people, especially from low-income populations. Despite such issues, in the previous posts was clearly stated that governments still play inevitably important role in creating the legislative and policy framework.

This concluding post highlights the most important aspect of big data which should be taken into account. Technologies need to focus on empowerment of people, especially of people from less developed countries rather than controlling them.

Therefore, there is no doubt that big data has been used for reasonable purposes. However, it is difficult to decide if all of them are positive. The use of social media to provoke a certain political change can be seen as being good and bad at the same time. Big data can be an opportunity in various contexts as well as a problem that needs to be solved. Everything depends on the context, particular situation and particular human intervention (Unwin, 2017).

Moreover, in terms of the less developed countries, as the world becomes even more digitally connected, there is a real need for the sharing the knowledge and technical capacity by richer countries and international organizations in order to improve global digital security. While this can cause privacy issues, it needs to be discussed openly and transparently within countries especially if it is related to an equal decision-making towards the reduction of inequality.

Additionally, even if Unwin declares that much more attention needs to be paid to the balance of interests between the rich and the poor than to the ways through which data are used I agree with Read, Taithe and Mac Ginty that data to become explicit, requires a careful analysis in terms of how it is being gathered and used. Especially when the technology itself becomes cheaper and social networking platforms such as Facebook became mainstream forms of communication (Read, R., Taithe, B., Mac Ginty, R, 2016).

However, it is not just the access to technology that matters. The data revolution risks strengthening specialists in headquarters. Thus, not only access to connectivity needs to be provided, but also governments should be innovative and open to new ideas. Also, there should be integrated an appropriate content which should empower, integrate less developed countries and help to use big data for their own interests (Unwin, 2017).

Nevertheless, despite all the risks in terms of poor communities, there are many potential benefits of big data analysis also. Among other things, such information can offer more employment opportunities, transform health care delivery, and do even much more than that (slate.com, 2016).

Therefore, the capacity to meaningfully analyse big data still has the same importance as a balance between developed and developing countries (Rettberg, 2016).


Oct 17


Goda, October 8.

From the previous posts, a big data has been characterised as a fuel that drives the next industrial revolution into every aspect of economic and social life. Moreover, it was highlighted that handling of data is a central and the main component in the context of creating trust online (Spratt & Baker, 2016).

While in developing countries social, economic and financial activities moved into a virtual space, huge amounts of information, including personal data also, have been transmitted, stored and collected globally.

Thus, one of the main issues moving activities online is that present regulatory environment on the protection of data is far from ideal. Many social and cultural norms around the world include a respect for privacy – some protect privacy as a fundamental right while others include the individual privacy in constitutional doctrines or similar documents. Nevertheless, there are certain countries that are still in process of adopting this rule (UNCTAD, 2016).

Today personal data are the fuel which drives more commercial activities online. However, the relevance of data protection and the need for controlling privacy is inevitable and increasingly important not only in global economy and international trade but in social media also (UNCTAD, 2016). From publicly available data in social media platforms, it is so easy to find everyone’s interests, political or religious views, shopping habits and etc. I believe that most people would feel really uncomfortable knowing that someone knows that much about them.

So, everything can be tracked and controlled by the information generated by online activities and it has become a concern to global data protection, privacy, security and trust.

How is Facebook using Big Data?

Facebook, as the world’s most popular social media network, is sometimes called a massive data wonderland. It has been estimated that there will be more than 169 million Facebook users only in the United States by 2018. “Facebook is the fifth most valuable public company in the world, with a market value of approximately $321 billion” (Monnappa, 2017).

Every day and every second numerous amount of photos and comments are uploaded, posted, liked and shared on Facebook. At first, this information doesn’t seem very meaningful but considering the fact that this giant social networking platform knows who peoples’ friends are, what they look like, where they are, what they are doing, some researchers say Facebook has enough of data to know people better than their therapists. Moreover, as it was mentioned before, for the same reason it has been widely used for many political activities also.

”Apart from Google, Facebook is probably the only company that possesses this high level of detailed customer information” (Monnappa, 2017). Facebook has always guaranteed its users that all the details are being shared only with their permission. Nevertheless, there have always been serious privacy concerns among these users. For example, many of them complain that Facebook’s privacy settings are not clearly explained or they are too complex. Also, it is easy for people to share things unintentionally.

privacy issue

Furthermore, there have been several cases in the United States and the UK, such as a Schrems v Facebook, initiated by consumers and civil liberties organizations to challenge the extent of the surveillance. One important results of the case were the renegotiation of the Safe harbour agreement (now called as the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield) which includes a commitment to stronger enforcement and monitoring of privacy and data protection (UNCTAD, 2016).

Moreover, a couple of years ago Belgium privacy commission took Facebook to the court over alleged privacy breaches and users tracking online. According to the report on which the commission was acting, Facebook was tracking users on a long-term basis who visit any page (Gibbs, 2017). The outcome of the case – 28 EU Member States prepared a draft of European law in relation to privacy that would improve the same national regulators’ powers over the companies like Facebook (Schechner and Drozdiak, 2015).

It’s no secret that data privacy is a huge concern for companies that deal with big data. With the help of the new technologies, someone knows more about people than they know about themselves which is frightening. One of the consequences – the majority of people have become slaves to data and have been terrified of social media.

Therefore, not only the countries, societies or companies but people themselves also need to take a great responsibility for their actions. Computers are amazing tools but many people have forgotten that they should use them just like tools. We don’t need to forget the best computer ever created is our brain.


Sep 17

Is a BIG DATA always a GOOD DATA or is it sometimes a MESS?

Goda, September 29.

dataAs it was discussed in the previous chapters, the big data has a potential to do many things and add value to major areas of our lives. So almost everyone is heavily involved in the big data. Moreover, one of the important aspects, reshaping the world today, is the worldwide accessibility to the Internet which has become incredibly broad. Internet live stats shows that approx. 40% of the entire population has an internet connection today. In 1995, it was less than 1%. The number of internet users has amazingly increased from 1999 to 2013.  The first billion was reached in 2005, the second billion in 2010, the third one in 2014 (Internetlivestats.com, 2017). While big data is concerned with all kinds of sources, it is estimated that the majority of it comes from unstructured sources and social media constitutes perhaps the biggest source of unstructured sources for big data including blogs, forums, social networking platforms, gaming and many other networks (The Statistics Portal, 2017).

Social media has become a key element in every society and culture, encouraging individuals to gather together on common interests and share opinions through the Internet. This has prompted the development of new big data approaches to capture, process and analyse large and complex data. New statistical methods and tools can process and examine such big data effectively at such a scale and speed that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago (Spratt & Baker, 2016).

However, to have lots of data doesn’t mean to have a good data. Surprisingly, the biggest long-term challenge of implementing and integrating big data isn’t technology – it is data governance and management or proper data collection and analysis (Read, Taithe & Mac Ginty, 2016).

When talking about data governance and management many articles concentrate on businesses to gain insights through analysis, to understand consumers’ behaviors by targeting products and services more effectively. Nevertheless, it has the same impact in politics too in terms of improving government decision-making and informing about their activities.

WHY? Because the DATA is the main element, not a technology, and implementation of the data into the whole picture is very important. Therefore, if the big data quality is POOR and INCORRECTLY analysed, proper integration of a big data can become one of the major problems.


Nowadays, almost anyone can easily access public information from social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. Access to large amounts of data on millions of peoples’ activities and behaviors is an exceptionally good resource for every organisation by describing potential customer’s profile from the way how individuals naturally communicate online.

Therefore, recently there has been a lot of complaints due to the subjectivity in data because it was being used as a manipulation strategy by governments. Governments have faster, simpler methods to access the data. A large amount of articles talks about the company Cambridge Analytica which helped to manipulate both the US election and the EU referendum by using social networking platforms data in terms of how people show their opinions and preferences in social media and in terms of creating fake online profiles to give an impression that many  individuals support their certain political position (www.parliament.uk, 2017).

The  REASON of these problems is that governments can access data more accurately and quickly and by adjusting their power relations (Read, Taithe & Mac Ginty, 2016). Moreover, there are some discussions that social media data may not include vulnerable groups such as the elderly or groups with lower salaries. Therefore, there are big gaps in the data and there are no procedures yet for controlling these gaps.

Taking everything into consideration, you don’t necessarily need to examine a lot of data to get an accurate result, you just need to be sure you are analysing the RIGHT DATA. You should seek out new and diverse sources that can give you a well-rounded overview of the subject. Therefore, before making important decisions it is important to consider thoroughly all the information we have available, to reach a fair and just judgement.

Sep 17

What is BIG DATA and why it can be dangerous?

Goda, September 18.

big dataOver the last few decades, information communication technologies (ICT) have developed gradually and brought many changes to global and international development.  The rise of the social media and evolution of big data are one of them. In order to talk about big data in the context of social media, we have to understand what big data means.

So let’s imagine the time when there were no computers yet and all the information was stored in written sources – books, letters and etc. Let’s imagine that we have so many of these sources that we have to open a huge library that would help anyone to find any small text or photo they need. This means that library must have a clear system and the ways to find any information quickly.

The same thing happened with the digital data. However, the amount of it is more than enormous comparing to written sources. Some time ago this process of handling and storing information was covered by simple databases, but when practically everything that goes on in our society moved into a virtual space, all the impressive amount of information needed to have impressive programs. This is where the term “Big Data” came from.

Many authors compare big data with the fuel that drives the next industrial revolution into every aspect of economic and social life (Tufekci, 2017). Soon, particularly in developing countries, big data will be able to help to improve even areas such as government decision-making, implementation of social welfare programs or scientific research.

There are lot’s great benefits associated with big data. However, big risks are also widely discussed. The three main big risks can be the following:

  • Quantity and the quality do not match. Having a large amount of data does not necessarily mean having a high-quality data. For example, many of the developments in digital humanitarianism are based on what is possible rather than what is needed. More and more money is being invested in developing these technologies but their use is often limited.
  • Moreover, everything can be tracked – how, why and by whom information is collected, stored and processed. Social media, music or videos have all been stored as a data that has become available for analysis. For example, Facebook always can show where you are or when was the last time when you were online.
  • Furthermore, it can cause big privacy problems. Data protection online is a significant and increasingly urgent challenge especially in the previously mentioned networking platforms and many others, such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Uber or AirBnB which have shown how huge amount of data can be achieved in the short period of time and, for example, how sharing one post on Facebook can make a difference.

Taking everything into consideration, it seems that big data will become inevitable everywhere. Nevertheless, despite its benefits, the three examples of the main risks of big data mentioned above are currently seen as very important challenges in the international development field which will be discussed in more detail later.

Thus, even if a huge amount of money is being invested in developing and improving digital technologies, their use is still quite limited. Also, these are the early days of the data revolution and many uses of it still remain unforeseen. Moreover, human impact how information is gathered and used needs to be considered too.

Therefore, thinking about the potential of big data, it requires more consideration about information gathering and processing especially in the light of accuracy, risk evaluation and assessment (Meier, 2015).