New paper on Data-Based Governance out in First Monday

Hallam Stevens from Nanjang Technological University and I co-edited a Special Issue in First Monday, one of the first Open Access journals on the internet. The theme of this issue is "Data-driven models of governance across borders: Datafication from the local to the global."

In essence, this special issue looks closely at contemporary data systems in diverse global contexts and through this set of papers, highlights the struggles we face as we negotiate efficiency and innovation with universal human rights and social inclusion. The studies presented in these essays are situated in diverse models of policy-making, governance, and/or activism across borders. Attention to big data governance in western contexts has tended to highlight how data increases state and corporate surveillance of citizens, affecting rights to privacy. By moving beyond Euro-American borders — to places such as Africa, India, China, and Singapore — we show here how data regimes are motivated and understood on very different terms.

It was wonderful to work with Hallam as we both were in sync on how to approach this theme and draw quality submissions and manage the review process to the final round. This theme first emerged from our panel that we held at Association of Internet Researchers in Tartu, Estonia in 2017.

Within this Issue, I also published my own individual paper on "Benign dataveillance? Examining novel data-driven governance systems in India and China." This paper has been in the works since but has since then been presented and reworked in a number of different workshops such as AoIR2017 , Data Justice Lab at Cardiff and Computational Social Science in London. In November 2018, as a Fellow in ZEMKI at the University of Bremen, I was able to sharpen it to completion.

This paper basically examines novel data-driven models of governance emerging from the Global South, specifically India and China, enabled by Net-based technologies. The first model, the biometric identity scheme or ‘Aadhaar’ project in India consolidates citizens’ digital identities to enable access to government services such as welfare benefits. The second model is China’s Social Credit System. By combining the citizens’ financial records, online shopping data, social media behaviour and employment history, the system will produce a personal score for each citizen. This rating system will be used to measure the citizens’ trustworthiness. This research unpacks these value-embedded systems posited as digital innovations to strengthen citizenship through new forms of political participation, inclusion and representation. In doing so, we are confronted with what constitutes as “democracy” in this datafied and global era, beyond the universalisms that are on offer today.


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