ICT, Datafication, Covid-19, Social Listening and AI Technology in Development
Big Data - Challenges or Chances in Development?


Dear visitor, welcome to our blog!

We are 5 people from different geographic and cultural regions, who will be discussing and blogging about Big Data- Challenges or Chances in Development. This is part of our MA in Communication for Development Studies. Please add, comment, discuss and share.

Big data in development, what is it and what does it mean for the development ecosystem? Data Justice-is big data neutral or are there examples of biased algorithms?  What is AI and how is it used? What about surveillance? What about big tech companies, who rules? How about applications for humanitarian relief? What are challenges of using big data for humanitarian relief missions?

2015 was supposed to be another normal year for me as a development practitioner that joined UNICEF Yemen years earlier. However, in March 2015 everything changed. The war broke out and I became both a developer and a humanitarian practitioner who is obliged to empower people on one hand, and a victim of the war who had to flee his house twice and lost 5 relatives who had been killed by an airstrike on the first night of the war on the other hand. The war eliminated the simplest forms of traditional journalism and mass media. But luckily, social media were taking us to a new era and replacing what we had lost in traditional journalism and moved us into the age of citizen journalism and social movements. I have come to the realization that virtual reality is just as important as real reality. Social media has a huge potential to improve people’s lives. This is the reason why I am here.. and why we are exchanging ideas through this blog. (Hussein Alwaday)

I’m Mateus, a Portuguese-American university lecturer on sabbatical from an international university in Bangkok. I’m currently studying the MA Com4Dev program from Boston, USA. I hold a BA in Communication from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Some of my personal interests include music, travel and futebol. My intention with this blog is to explore big data, its uses and its effect on development. Some ideas I would like to share touch upon topics such as net neutrality effects on data manipulation, surveillance for modeling COVID risk is being used but at what cost to privacy, and also automation and big data affecting workers in the global South manufacturing sectors. (Mateus Jose Gouveia Frias)

I am Sabina, a designer from Germany, who studied long ago visual communication design and worked in many design jobs. I left for India, when my kids were grown up, because I wanted to look at the world from a different perspective and ‘design for the real world’. Before I moved to Bangalore and became a design lecturer, I lived in a tribal village in Tamil Nadu, where I learnt a lot about people and nature and also about poverty and violence, Gender based and Caste based violence. In Bangalore, I also worked for the GIZ in a social security programme, conceptualising and designing the communication with and for ‘unorganized’ informal sector workers.  The experiences really changed my perspective on design and what it could achieve in development. I am presently working in several African countries in a TVET programme and for UNICEF in Namibia.
For this blog, I am exploring and trying to find out more about data processes and systems in international development with a focus on internet governance, the tension between freedom of expression, control, autonomy, data injustice und inequality, and visualization(AI). It’s a steep learning curve, because I have started from 0 (being a data dummy). (Sabina von Kessel)

I am Sampurna; with an Indian origin but currently staying in Sweden. I hold a bachelors degree in English Literature, a masters degree in Mass Communication and Journalism and currently pursuing my second masters degree in communication for development along with another course in UX/UI design.
I am passionate about design and technology, I strongly feel that the amalgamation of both these aspects will lead to better communication and hence cater to better development. But where are the loopholes, where is the destabilisation of technology, where is the disruption of services…. I will venture deep into these and reflect my insights through my articles in our blog posts! (
Sampurna Datta Paul)

My name is Stef and I am from the Netherlands. I hold a BA (2009), an MA (2013) and am currently studying the MA Com4Dev program out of personal interest and to refresh knowledge to remain up to date in this ever-changing world. For this blog exercise, I am most interested to further explore Social Listening for Development. Social media can be a compound for change, as we have seen in the past years at several protests and demonstrations (e.g. Egypt, Tunisia), or in hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and #BringBackOurGirls. Listening to, or the more in-depth monitoring of the same social media can allow us to follow current social concerns and analyse the public discourse, so that development organisations can respond quicker and more accurate to these societal issues. Social Listening could provide strong opportunities for the development sector. (Stef Bolte)