Beyond the digital divide: Towards a situated approach to open data
Science and Public Policy
Oxford University Press (OUP)
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Poor provision of information and communication technologies in low/middle-income countries represents a concern for promoting Open Data. This is often framed as a “digital divide” and addressed through initiatives that increase the availability of information and communication technologies to researchers based in low-resourced environments, as well as the amount of resources freely accessible online, including data themselves. Using empirical data from a qualitative study of lab-based research in Africa we highlight the limitations of such framing and emphasize the range of additional factors necessary to effectively utilize data available online. We adopt the ‘Capabilities Approach’ proposed by Sen to highlight the distinction between simply making resources available, and doing so while fostering researchers’ ability to use them. This provides an alternative orientation that highlights the persistence of deep inequalities within the seemingly egalitarian-inspired Open Data landscape. The extent and manner of future data sharing, we propose, will hinge on the ability to respond to the heterogeneity of research environments.
The research informing this article was supported by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust title ‘Beyond the Digital Divide’ (RPG-2013-153). Sabina Leonelli was also funded by the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ ERC grant agreement n° 335925. Ann Kelly’s contribution was also supported by UK Economic Social Research Council Urgency Grants mechanism (ES/M009203/1).
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from OUP via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 44 (4), pp. 464–475
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.