There is immense potential for new digital technologies and related data science to help deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals. A team of researchers from the Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID) are leading a new strategic partnership network to explore the role of digital technologies and different forms of data in international development.

The network, led by Professor Dorothea Kleine (SIID), will make a key contribution to data science and international development – examining the hype around digital development and datafication, while at the same time harnessing these trends for progress on global challenges.

The network, which won highly competitive ESRC Global Challenges research funding, will bring together 29 leading academics and practitioners in international and community development and digital from the UK, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Brazil, Norway, Montenegro and Macao. Among the non-academic partners and collaborators, Oxfam Digital, CSIR, UNICEF, and the global umbrella organisation of mobile phone companies, GSMA, will all contribute to the shaping of this research agenda.

Professor Dorothea Kleine said:

“We want to collaborate to answer the overarching question: ‘How can new digital data, both “big data” and “small data”, be used to support development efforts and how might this be done in ways which empower the marginalised rather than reinforce inequality?’. New digital technologies offer great opportunities for international development for more effective service delivery and more participatory citizen engagement, but also come with risks such as new forms of exclusion, surveillance and new invisibilities. We can learn from each other to map what we know, across countries, institutions and sectors – and then develop strategies to explore together what we do not know. “

Seven academics from across the University of Sheffield are involved in the network. Among the other partners are: University of Oxford, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Cape Town, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, United Nations University Macao, Overseas Development Institute, Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, Bank of Tanzania, Sheffield Hallam University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Makerere University and Observatorio de Favelas, a Brazilian NGO specialising in participatory digital film and photography.