Executive Summary – tiagocph

Society as we know it is being reshaped through the emergence of digital infrastructures. Big Data brings to the table the digitization of the public sector creating opportunities for government practices. However, doing so, causes some challenges. One of the main challenges is that the public-sector digitization is not clear and practices for using new data sources have not been set yet. It is then crucial to comprehend the new data-driven society, moved by how data is created and used, and making sure the government can adapt to this new scenario.


Everyday life is surrounded by data-saturated environment and people wear personalized data-generation devices on the bodies; not just smartphones but also sensor-embedded wristbands, clothing or watches. These devices carried around daily are constantly sending and receiving continuous flows of personal information. It includes geolocation information, personal images, biometric information and more. However, the destination of this data is not clear, going to either private or public sectors or both. This happens in real-time, every day and sometimes without the user’s’ knowledge or consent.


Questions of security and privacy turn into Political issues concerning data ownership. Asymmetries in the access of citizens to digital datasets (including their personal data) and that of government and commercial entities.


It is fair to assume that citizens recognize, to some extent, data they share and generate by the constant usage of technological devices goes somewhere. Citizens, know companies and the government, look into this data, to extract information about their users. However, the way the information is processed, the context it is associated to is totally out of control of the users. A parallel can be made to food, as the one can choose what to eat, but loses control over what happens to the content of the food in their bodies as the processes of digestion take place. The same happens with fata, we choose the applications we use, but as users our agency ends there, becoming both data-ingesting and data-emitting in an endless cycle of generating data, never sure what becomes of it.


This generated information will inevitably end at a governmental desk, and it is fair to assume that it will only increase in the future. The question is raised, how should the Government deal with this situation. Right now, there are not available tools to access this generated data correctly, social-media sites provide only a glimpse into the present, as they lack way to access archived information, or the data collected might not be entirely accurate due to a variety of causes, such as: pre-processing done, sensors used and so on.  Therefore, it is important that the government is prepared to handle this data with care. An informed public sector is thus expected to be up to date with the latest tactics and strategies of handling big data. There needs to be a site for debate, mediation and intervention is therefore a vital organ for this information gathering process.


This site would work as a toolbox that draws from studies, reflections and theory all around the world, and more specifically subprojects made in the project process. In addition to regular and easy to read information this toolbox would serve to navigate the complexity of big data usage in public sector decision-making, and demonstrate how universities can innovatively combine the tasks of research, education and outreach.


In order to gain an insight into how big data is used and viewed and the digital infrastructure in government institutions a practice-based methodology founded on anthropological principles is used. Furthermore, a plethora of digital tools to compare and contrast the findings from fieldwork inquiries and observations is applied. The digital tools used are mainly open-source and used in sociological studies of science, technology, and innovation.


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