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Big Data and Development: Speed Dating!

Published on
11 Feb 2016

Participants outlined some of their “aspirations” for big data and human development on post-it notes.

Participants outlined some of their “aspirations” for big data and human development on post-it notes.

On Thursday, February 4th, approximately 20 Oxford academics met to discuss the Big Data and Development Incubator.  In an effort to understand the potential uses of ‘big data’ in the contexts of development, participants asked what techniques, data sources, and possibilities exist for harnessing new online data to address persistent concerns regarding human development, inequality, exclusion, and participation.

By bringing together researchers with expertise in ‘big data’ and/or development, we hope to encourage the future development of collaborative research projects. From this research, several key themes emerged:


  •   Firstly, many participants raised the topic of data generation processes. Implicit in this topic is both the need for a more narrow understanding of the term “big data” as well as the necessity of a broader conversation focused on the implications of big data analysis


  •   Secondly, another area of interest was the application to “big data” (social media data, GIS data, etc.) to areas currently understood predominantly with “conventional data” (i.e., micro data, household surveys, etc.). Participants asked how information from social media can inform local policy as well as how this data could be linked with existing sources.


  •   Lastly, the possibility of engaging more directly with data scientists affiliated with Oxford globally, and more specifically in Kenya, arose an area for further exploration.

In the coming weeks and months, we intend to consider next steps in each of these areas and plan future forums for discussion. Please reach out to Mark Graham at if you are interested in contributing!

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