Data Spaces: Fostering Regional Synergies for a People-Centered Big Data Revolution

Central to our long-term strategy is the creation and consolidation of about 7 regional ‘Data Spaces’ in major areas of the world, starting with Data Space Latin America (anchored in Bogotá, with Mexico City and Rio as additional nodes), West Africa (anchored in Dakar with links in Abidjan and Accra), East and South Africa (around Nairobi, Kigali, and Cape Town), East Asia and Pacific (around Singapore, Manila, and Sydney), Western Europe (with Barcelona, Berlin, The Hague, Paris, and London as nodes), MENA (Beirut and Abu Dhabi), and North America (New York City, Boston, and San Francisco).

Data Spaces: Phase I

Data Spaces: Phase I

These Data Spaces will eventually constitute a global network of key actors and activities in Big Data research, training and engagement that will aim to foster synergies within and between regions.

A Regional Data Space is a collective of institutions and initiatives in the Big Data and development ecosystem of a specific region of the world that Data-Pop Alliance and interested partners seek to animate in their host countries and region with a light footprint in local host institutions—typically a university or research organization. Importantly, a Data Space is not envisaged as a self-contained Data ‘Lab’ or ‘Hub’, but instead aims to serve as a connecting and sounding board for its members, catalyzing and coordinating efforts to maximize their impact towards a common objective: promoting a people-centered, locally-shaped Big Data revolution, in the broader context of the ‘Data Revolution’ and Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda.

Modalities

Each Data Space consists of both a physical and a virtual component:

  • A physical component, with a small coordination teams hosted by a local institution—preferably a top academic and/or research institution—initially led by one lead researcher and coordinator to be grown into small 2-3 people team in each node;
  • A virtual component, in the form of a set of strategically developed activities jointly implemented with partners, with, among other features, a dedicated website and online multilingual knowledge platform.

A Data Space will build on existing and planned projects of its members in the region—starting by those of Data-Pop Alliance and the host institution—before growing organically over time in various ways. Specifically, it will be developed by:

  1. Combining, when relevant, existing projects and resources of Data-Pop Alliance and its hosts in the region, as a base; for example, our planned training activities and Big Data seasonal schools in Colombia, Senegal, Kigali, Nairobi, and Singapore;
  2. Augmenting these initial resources through joint fundraising and/or the provision of in-kind resources to scale up initiatives in the host country and region by soliciting government funding, bilateral and multilateral funding, private sector sponsors, foundations, and crowdfunding;
  3. Developing additional projects between Data-Pop Alliance, host institutions and other partners, leveraging their respective networks and connections to find financial and implementing partners in the host country and region;
  4. Facilitating the development and implementation of projects with and between other member partners interested in benefiting from the expertise and connections provided by the Data Space in the host country and region, or in another Data Space.

All Data-Pop Alliance projects implemented in a given region will be part of the corresponding regional Data Space, and these regions will receive priority in the next few years as we expand our activities. In turn, partners seeking to develop joint activities in and between these regions will benefit from contacts, funding opportunities, knowledge, and resources, which the projects will help grow. Each partner retains its independence but all will adhere to core sets of principles and objectives, as stated in strategic partnership agreements.

The case of Data Space Latin America anchored in Colombia

Given the magnitude and variety of our activities implemented in Colombia since the end of 2013, we have chosen Bogotá and Colombia to host our initial Data Space Latin America. We have established a large network of national, international, and regional organizations supportive of the idea and objectives behind the Data Space and secured funding that will help materialize unique collaborations across borders, building on the following:

  1. A funded World Bank project in partnership with Colombia’s Administrative Department of National Statistics (DANE) to investigate the opportunities and challenges of Big Data for official statistics in Colombia and Latin America; with three main outputs:
    • A strategy paper on “Opportunities and Requirements for Leveraging Big Data for Official Statistics and the SDGs in Latin America”, to be presented at the Statistical Conference of the Americas led by ECLAC in mid-November 2015;
    • Two research pilots and papers assessing the feasibility and steps to leverage cell-phone data to monitor and analyze socioeconomic outcomes, focusing on public safety and poverty with key partners Telefónica, DANE, and Logyca;
  2. A global training grant provided by The Hewlett Foundation and implemented by MIT Media Lab to develop a professional training program backed by a knowledge platform on Big Data and development:
    • A total of up to 10 training workshops will be designed, developed and organized in up to 6 countries in 2016-17—including three in Colombia, complemented by and connected to one in each country of Senegal, Kenya, Rwanda, one in New York City and two at MIT Media Lab. The bilingual workshops in Colombia will be developed and delivered in English and Spanish with the active involvement of Colombian partners;
    • The creation of a Big Data and Development Summer School to take place in June 2016 at MIT Media Lab;
    • The organization of a regional Big Data Summer School in the Summer of 2017 in partnership with and at the University of Los Andes;
    • An online knowledge platform providing curated and customizable content on Big Data and development, in English and Spanish;
  3. Participation in regional dialogues and conferences such as the regional the Statistical Conference of the Americas and the World Big Data Conference in Bogotá in October 2015, and the planned development of projects with Igarapé in Rio, Oxfam Mexico, UNFPA and OCHA, etc.
  4. The staffing of one lead researcher and coordinator, Andrés Clavijo.

More information will be available soon.
For any questions and expressions of interest, please contact nshoup@datapopalliance.org