School of Social and Political Science

Research project type

Developing Data The use of digital data in African contexts



The use of digital data in African contexts

Data is a resource that is remaking politics and markets in East Africa and beyond. This Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) funded project establishes a network of parties interested in the wide range of opportunities and risks that have been created as a result of the use of digital data (and associated trends in artificial intelligence and machine learning) in African contexts.

This generation of digital data is opening up the possibilities for socio-economic, political and cultural transformations on the continent. For instance, new jobs are emerging - not only in data science but also a host of related occupations involving producing, maintaining, and structuring digital data.

Furthermore, decisions with significant public implications - from the targeting of electoral campaign messages to the designing of municipal services - are being made based on new databases of call records, mobile money transactions, and social media engagement.

Opportunities and risks

The opportunity is significant, from improving the quality of government services (such as healthcare and taxation) to the inclusion of women and other previously marginalised groups.

The risks are also significant, and yet currently our collective knowledge of digital data collection, usage, and marketing too often remains in the realm of anecdote, speculation, and rumour.

Permissive or absent regulatory regimes and a lack of public deliberation mean data economies and politics are unfolding without proper oversight.

The 'Developing Data?' project will host two workshops in 2020, one on the economies of digital data and another on the influence of digital on politics.

These will be organised by the:

  • Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA),
  • Strathmore University’s Centre of Intellectual Property and Information Technology (CIPIT)
  • University of Edinburgh’s Centre of African Studies (CAS)

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Further information

Further information

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