Big data executive summary


Society as we know it is being reshaped through the emergence of digital infrastructures. The digitization of the public sector makes way for a wide range of opportunities for government practices using big data, which at the same time causes some challenges, such as how do we secure citizens’ privacy. Therefore it is important to comprehend how data is being created and how it can be used, and how the government is more commonly using data. We suggest a public website for citizens gain information about the processes and steps the government takes to secure their data.

Data is generated from people’s everyday life, as data is being created through all of their online devices. Some of this data will end up at a governmental desk, and increasingly more of the data generated by the citizens will become available to the government. Thus it is important that the government is prepared to handle these data with a presumed care. An informed public sector is thus expected to be up to date with the latest strategies and tactics of handling big data, able to handle the formation of digital infrastructures in the public sphere, and furthermore to come up with a generalized structure of this procedure. A website for debate, mediation and intervention is therefore a vital organ for this information gathering process.

This website draws on studies, reflections and theory from studies all around the world, and more specifically subprojects made in the project process. Additional to regular and easy accessible information this website serves to navigate the complexity of big data usage in public sector decision-making, and furthermore demonstrates how universities can innovatively combine the tasks of research, education and outreach.

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 humans carry around daily are also invested with and sends out continuous flows of personal information. Personal information including geolocation information, personal images, biometric information and more. However, these devices also leak data outwards, transmitting them to private or public cloud servers. This happens in real-time continuously every day and sometimes without the users’ knowledge or consent. This raises important questions about the security and privacy of the very intimate information that these devices generate, transmit and archive.

These questions 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 individuals recognize they are consumers of data and producers of data by the constant usage of technological devices. Most of them, know this data is used to some extent by companies and the government 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.

Big Data is not representative data. Big data is usually collected from websites such as facebook and twitter. However, these sites favor a certain type of people that have a habit of using such sites. People who are less likely to be on social media sites, as well as any other type of website, creates a divide in the data. There is also a divide in the type of research performed. Furthermore, companies are also not obliged to share all of their data. Some websites will only share a certain percentage of their total data (a so-called water hose). Researchers have no way for telling the quality of data they are getting, which could affect the outcome of their research.

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.



The article set up 6 provocations that is used to make the reader critically question Big Data. The provocations makes the reader think about issues relating to ethical, analytical, empirical aspects of Big Data. They also discuss who decides who has access to what and how much.