Datafication, when handled responsibly, may offer a path for societal progress and sustainable development. Yet, developing countries, rich in potential, face challenges including insufficient data quality and limited infrastructure that hinder data re-use.  In addition, a significant hurdle is the asymmetry in determining what happens to their data, leading to public distrust and a sense of disempowerment. Traditional consent frameworks fall short as they are often too focused on individuals, lacking in detail, and do not fully encompass the complexities of data re-use. To overcome these challenges, a paradigm shift towards a social licence for data re-use is needed. This approach emphasizes a community-centric model, ensuring responsible data practices that benefit all parties involved. It is about building trust, fostering collaboration, and creating a bridge between institutions, governments, and people.

A new publication, titled "Responsible Data Re-Use in Developing Countries: Social Licence through Public Engagement," co-authored by Stefaan G. Verhulst, Laura Sandor, Natalia Mejia Pardo, and Elena Murray from The Data Tank, along with Peter Addo from Agence Française de Développement, delves into challenges of digital self determination and  data re-use in developing nations. The publication examines issues of agency and asymmetries in decision-making power among various stakeholders—which contribute to a pervasive sense of public distrust.


One of the central tenets of the report is the inadequacy of existing consent frameworks, which are predominantly centered on individuals, a lack of comprehensive information, and failure to capture the nuanced realities of data re-use. These observations underscore the need for a paradigm shift towards establishing a social licence for data re-use, an approach that. advocates for a community-focused model, aimed at promoting responsible data practices that are inclusive and beneficial to all stakeholders involved.

By engaging with the broader concept of digital self-determination, the publication argues that fostering a social licence is not merely about implementing ethical data re-use practices; it is about empowering communities and individuals in developing countries to have a say in how their data is used. This empowerment is crucial for fostering a sense of digital self determination.

This publication aims to show that the path to unlocking the potential of data re-use in developing countries is intricately linked to the ability to cultivate trust, facilitate collaborative engagement, and bridge the existing gaps between institutions, governments, and citizens. 

Read the Full Publication here.