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Sustainable Consumption Institute

Urban data, inequality and justice in the global South

A critical evaluation of new data streams in cities of the global South through the lens of 'data justice'.

Cities in the global South – including those with a smart city agenda – are seeing increasing presence of digital data of all kinds: from mobile phones, remote sensing, ground-level sensors, community mapping, etc.  This datafication of the city means growing velocity, volume and variety of data used in urban decision-making; and expanding presence for the city’s “data twin”: a virtual simulacrum through which the city is increasingly planned and even experienced.

A set of scales on a background of computer code representing data justice

This SCI project is commissioning a set of urban data case studies that take a critical perspective and help build the evidence base on 'data justice' – who wins and who loses, the relationship to power and inequality from this datafication – particularly for those living in slums and informal settlements who are already marginalised in the physical city.  Will they become further excluded: absent or mis-represented from the city’s data twin?  Or can they be positively incorporated into datafication?  Such questions are particularly sharp for those living in cities of the global South where gaps between elites and marginalised groups are most pronounced, and potentially undermine future urban sustainability for both groups. 

The commissioned case studies will be published as working papers along with an overview paper.  The evidence base developed for the project will be used as the basis to create a research agenda on urban datafication and data justice in developing countries. 

Research team