5 Unanswered Questions on Expanding Digital Economies in Developing Countries
May 19, 2015 Editor 0
Recently, the Technology Salon in Washington DC asked if Digital Economies Will Empower or Enslave the Next 4 Billion Mobile Users? While there was a general recognition of the lack of digital literacy, and the disadvantages people face when trying to understand the costs and benefits of having an online presence, opinions were split on whether digital economies would be inherently good or bad.
Out of the discussion, we identified five key questions about going online, and the agency of people that do.
1. What are the implications of having a digital ID?
Collecting data from online platform users was described in the Salon as the “digital extractive industry”. It was argued that industry gets more from the data the consumer provides than from the consumer gets from the service they subscribe to. In most cases, when new users first come online and get a digital ID through a website here is a lack of understanding about what information they are sharing and what rights they are giving up. Industries are gathering data from people and selling it to companies that want to target this emerging market of people, which makes the data in a developing world context a jackpot because there is less information on them in comparison to countries like the US.
2. Who is accountable for data?
Currently there is little accountability for how data is managed and how information is shared on social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter. In the discussion it was pointed out that as platforms manipulate their design and alter how a site functions, this affect how peoples’ information is shared and how they interact with the site. As a result, there are often unintended repercussions.
Sign up to get invited to the next Salon
In comparison, humanitarian and development organizations have always been data driven, and to an extend much more responsible about the data they collect. However this information collection has been centered on making the project better, and has not been “user driven”. While data is becoming more open and available, there is disconnect between having open data that’s useful to organizations and open data that is relevant and useful to the communities it was collected from.
The accountability between Facebook and a development organization is different, yet they both have a certain disregard for the consumer. While companies like Facebook sell consumers data for marketing, development organizations extract data to show program results to donors.
3. Who has agency and control over information?
Currently there is no recognition of a person’s ownership of their information, once it has been “extracted”. The EU is in the process of changing this by setting a new standard via its data protection regulation that is in the final stages. Among other things, it affords individuals the right to “be forgotten” and have information about them removed from search engines that is no longer relevant. Is it possible with development to have the notion of an individual project constituent being “forgotten”?
4. Is data collected from mobile phones and applications any different than any other technology?
One side argued that because establishing an online identity is not a physical object, and it is tied to other services, digital IDs are inherently different than any other technology. Purchasing a car was used as the comparison to explain how with a physical object you have more control over how it is used and you aren’t required to sign up for other services just to use it. In comparison if you sign up for a Facebook account, it isn’t just a Facebook account you get, but your data is automatically shared with other industries, and Facebook itself attempts to track your activity across the Internet.
5. What are the limitations of the current structural system?
One key insight from a participant was that, “Technology scales what human intention has already created.” The technologies themselves are neither good nor bad but how they are used in the social, political, and economic systems that we’ve created determines their inherent “goodness”.
People expressed a desire to improve the way data is collected and refocus on the actual needs and desires of communities. Several people mentioned the importance of anthropological studies in understanding and evaluating community’s strengths and weaknesses from an insider’s perspective. However the current program structure is deadline focused and uses rapid assessments, rarely allowing for the lengthy studies that would be ideal to gauging communities’ desires. It is clearly a top down, not bottom up, system. What steps can be taken to better inform communities about how their data is used and engage with them, within our current system?
The future of data
The event concluded with Salon participants brainstorming on actions they can take to effect the way data is used in their work, and how they can impact the data extraction industry. That leaves a final question: What can you do to impact the role of data and the digital economy?
If you’ve read this far, shouldn’t you sign up to get invited to the next Salon?
Go to SourceReprinted from ICTWorks
- Building deposit insurance systems in developing countries
- Can ‘fintech’ innovations impact financial inclusion in developing countries?
- Human Capital as Source of Innovativeness in Subsistence Small Businesses
- Six Things You Need to Know About Crowdfunding in Developing Countries
- Want to support enterprise development in developing countries? Think about the other salient factors. An investigation of Zimbabwe and Pacific Island countries
- Beekeeping innovation for sustaining rural livelihoods. A success story
Categories: Feature Articles, ICT
An investment ecosystem: Piecing together the interventions needed for a dynamic textile and apparel cluster in Kenya Cultivating a psychological sense of community
Subscribe to our stories
- Entrepreneurial Alertness, Innovation Modes, And Business Models in Small- And Medium-Sized Enterprises December 30, 2021
- The Strategic Role of Design in Driving Digital Innovation June 10, 2021
- Correction to: Hybrid mosquitoes? Evidence from rural Tanzania on how local communities conceptualize and respond to modified mosquitoes as a tool for malaria control June 10, 2021
- BRIEF FOCUS: Optimal spacing for groundnuts in smallholder farming systems June 9, 2021
- COVID-19 pandemic: impacts on the achievements of Sustainable Development Goals in Africa June 9, 2021
Popular Post-All time
- A review on biomass-based... 1k views
- Can blockchain disrupt ge... 807 views
- Apply Now: $500,000 for Y... 806 views
- Test Your Value Propositi... 759 views
- Prize-winning projects pr... 726 views