IGF 2019 WS #367 Governing Big Data for Development in Global South

Organizer 1: Amber Sinha, The Centre for Internet and Society
Organizer 2: Charles Lebon Mberi Kimpolo, African Institute for Mathematical Sciences - Next Einstein Initiative (AIMS-NEI)
Organizer 3: Fernando Perini, International Development Research Centre (IDRC)
Organizer 4: Muchiri Nyaggah, Local Development Research Institute (LDRI)
Organizer 5: Sumandro Chattapadhyay, The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), India

Speaker 1: Leonida Mutuku, Technical Community, African Group
Speaker 2: Philipp Schönrock, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: Seraphine Kayitaramirwa, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 4: Shweta Mohandas, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 5: Sriganesh Lokanathan, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Policy Question(s): 

1. What are the data governance challenges in enabling responsible use of big data for development monitoring and planning by various actor groups across Global South countries?

2. What modes of inter-actor cooperation are essential in enabling responsible and effective usages of big data for development in Global South countries, and especially what role may South-South cooperation play in the same?

3. How are the possibilities of innovation with big data hindered and limited by lack of inclusiveness, and gendered nature, of such data as well as its usages; and what efforts may address these challenges?

4. What are the key human and technical capacity challenges in enabling broad-based use of big data for development monitoring and planning, by state, academic, civil society, and private actors, in Global South countries, and how we may address these challenges?

Relevance to Theme: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda identifies the crucial role that big data generated by everyday functioning of internet-based communication, finance, commerce, and other activities will play in realising the vision of global monitoring of SDG indicators. Such use of big data for development, by complementing and not substituting official statistics collected by state actors, is expected to give rise to a ‘data revolution for sustainable development’. The data governance question, however, is fundamental to conceptualising and operationalising such a ‘data revolution’ in a manner that is responsible, that enables a broad range of actors to effectively access and use the big data concerned, and that builds and gains from cooperation across geographies, across actor types, and across disciplinary expertise. This Roundtable session will bring together the leaders of a Global South Network of organisations involved in undertaking and studying Big Data for Development (BD4D) projects and policies at national and regional scales in Africa, Latin America, and South Asia.

Governance of big data, including but not limited to for purposes of achieving the SDGs, is a fundamental digital economy regulation question across the Global South countries, as well as the Northern ones. Such discussions of governance of big data in the Global South often takes place in the context of negotiation of rules of international trade, regulation of competition in the digital economy, and questions of digital self-sovereignty and localisation of personal data of citizens within national/regional jurisdiction. This Roundtable is aimed at foregrounding the agenda of sustainable development as an essential lens for approaching the questions of governance of big data in the Global South, and to highlight the concerns of capacity development, South-South cooperation, and responsible innovation in that context.

Relevance to Internet Governance: The potential of big data in providing services to the people is being realised not just by private enterprises but also by governments. However, the use of big data for economic or social development needs to be done keeping in mind both the existing unresolved problems within the present global internet governance architecture, as well as those emerging with global proliferation of a digital economy powered by generation, collection, mining, and exploitation of personal and process data.

Global South countries are typically characterised both by relatively (to Northern countries) weaker regulatory frameworks for regulation of big data as well as for preventing and compensating for harms caused by irresponsible and inaccurate use of big data, and by a governance context where national-level policy makers and regulators are most often engaging with big data companies located beyond the national jurisdiction. This significantly complicates the processes and mechanisms of governance of big data in the Global South, in terms of developing enabling policy measures that facilitate collaboration between various stakeholders, and protects the rights and interests of the citizens concerned.

Like internet governance, governance of big data in the Global South has much to gain from a multistakeholder approach, especially in an enhanced form that upholds democratic rights of the citizens concerned. The Big Data for Development (BD4D) Network proposes this session for IGF 2019 specifically to share its experiences on opportunities of and challenges with using big data in the Global South with the wider sphere of internet governance practitioners so as to take ahead such conversations on frameworks for global governance of data.


Round Table - Circle - 90 Min

Description: We are proposing a 90-minutes long Roundtable session, It will be structured in two parts: 1) a 45 minutes session where the 5 speakers will share their expert comments on governance of big data in the Global South, with specific focus on capacity requirements, cooperation possibilities, and responsible innovation; and 2) a 45 minutes session that will start with inviting Roundtable participants to pose questions to the speakers, share their own experiences of working with big data in Global South contexts, and highlight governance challenges associated with big data, especially when multiple jurisdictions are involved.

The first part of the session will include a general introduction to the BD4D Network, and the second part will include a final round of concluding remarks by the speakers. The initial comments by the speakers will be structured by the four Policy Questions shared above. All the speakers, as well as facilitators, moderators, and rapporteurs, of the session are persons associated with the BD4D Network, including representatives of the partner organisations of the BD4D Network.

Expected Outcomes: We expect the session to produce in-depth discussion on key concerns with governance of big data for sustainable development with a special focus on opportunities of and challenges with using big data for monitoring and implementing interventions for sustainable development.

The rapporteurs’ report from the session, including the comments by the speakers and the discussion that will follow, will form the basis of an issue brief to be development by the BD4D Network on global governance of big data for sustainable development.

Onsite Moderator: 

Muchiri Nyaggah, Civil Society, African Group

Online Moderator: 

Amber Sinha, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Charles Lebon Mberi Kimpolo, Civil Society, African Group

Discussion Facilitation: 

We will share a set of key reports and papers by partner organisations of the BD4D Network prior to the session, as well as a set of questions that we would like the Roundtable participants to consider and respond to. We hope that these will enable a productive discussion during the session. Also, we will actively seek and support online participation during the session so as to bring in perspectives and voices of people working on big data in Global South countries but who may not be physically present at the IGF 2019.

Online Participation: 

We will request remote participants to engage with the speakers, share thoughts and experiences, and pose questions through the online participation tool.

Proposed Additional Tools: We will circulate the pre-workshop readings and questions via Twitter, as well as interact with remote participants on Twitter during the session.


GOAL 5: Gender Equality
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities
GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
GOAL 13: Climate Action
GOAL 17: Partnerships for the Goals