Big data: promoting development and safeguarding privacy

23 October 2013 - A Workshop on Access in Bali, Indonesia

Organizer Name 

kwasny sophie

Organizer Entity 

Council of Europe

Workshop Theme 

The Internet as an Engine for Growth and Advancement

Consise description 


The confluence of Internet-related trends including e-services (e.g. e-gov, social networks) and the increasing number of smart devices are leading to a huge volume of data ("big data"). This exponential data growth along with cloud computing and data analytics signal a shift towards a socio-economic model, in which data are a key asset driving innovation, inclusive growth and development.

The new potential of data ranges from better informing decision-making to automating knowledge intensive processes and has wide policy implications, many of which are crucial to developing economies. These range from issues related to Internet infrastructure to the rights of the individuals. , in particular tThe right to privacy and to data protection are amongst the key issues that need to be considered in the context of ‘big data’ and a careful balance has to be achieved in fully enabling the socio-economic benefits while respecting the right to privacy of each and every individual who is behind the data.

Three main dimensions of global data cooperation and collaborative knowledge creation for developing economies are discussed in the workshop: 
1.) Global access to data for better policy making; 
2.) Access to data analytics capacities located in other countries; and last but not least 
3.) Privacy, protection also touching upon the use and implications of big data for security and surveillance purposes.



Introduction and setting the scene by the moderator 4mn speed focus by each of the speakers Discussant reactions Question and answers sessions with the audience


Sophie Kwasny (CoE)

Remote Moderator 

Lee Hibbard (CoE)

Have you organized workshops at previous IGFs?


Workshop format 


Workshop Transcript 


Brief substantive summary of the workshop and presentation of the main issues that were raised during the discussions 


Panellists talked about how big data can deliver societal benefits and economic growth and how the insights resulting from the analysis and sharing of diverse data types enhance policy-making and responsiveness in international development, but how to deliver all that, big data needs to respect rights such as the right to privacy.

As examples of benefits, projects implemented in the context of the UN Millennium Development goals were presented. Panellists also discussed the need for open access to public sector data to promote greater transparency and efficiency not only within government administration but across the public sector. Open data in the private sector (by “data philanthropists” - a term coined by UN Global Pulse) was also highlighted as not only important for public policy research, but also as a source for boosting grassroots innovation and entrepreneurship. Mobile phones were highlighted as a promising interface to big data in developing economies, not only as data collection device but also as a means for the diffusion of data-driven insights through e.g. apps developed by civic entrepreneurs.

While the potential and benefits are promising, concerns relating to 'big data' were expressed thoroughly, in particular concerning data protection and the right to privacy, addressing the required safeguards and protection of the individuals.

Privacy issues raised included:

Impact of discriminatory and exclusionary nature of data on decision making processes

- Anonymisation and data masking

- Consent

- Data mining

- Lack of accountability of private sector

- Potential for surveillance

In that context, panellists also discussed why the Internet cannot be considered a global flat space. Recent revelations about surveillance activities were discussed as a dramatic example of this. In particular, the locations of Internet Exchange Points and undersea cables were highlighted as the paths data take. If one abstracts this into a "cloud", panellists argued, one loses any visibility into the risks taken or the trade-off that need to be made.



Conclusions drawn from the workshop and further comments 


Panellists agreed that there is a risk factor in the use of personal data. For certain profiles the risks can be even life threatening. Anonymity for making people “less visible” to data analytics can be a promising means for responding to these risks. Without any response, panellists agreed, people will be withholding their data, which would threaten the innovation potential that comes with the use of data.



Reported by 

Christian Reimsbach-Kounatze

Estimate the overall number of women participants present at the session 

About half of the participants were women

To what extent did the session discuss gender equality and/or women's empowerment? 

It was not seen as related to the session theme and was not raised

Discussion affecting gender equality and women's empowerment 


Workshops Staticals 

Number of FEMALE participantsNumber of MALE participantsNumber of Young participantsNumber of Developing Countries ParticipantsNumber of Developed Countries ParticipantsNumber of LDCs participantsNumber of TOTAL Participants
0 0 0 0 0 0 0