Datafication, development and marginalised urban communities: an applied data justice framework

Richard Heeks, Satyarupa Shekhar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The role of data within international development is rapidly expanding. However, the recency of this phenomenon means analysis has been lagging; particularly, analysis of broader impacts of real-world initiatives. Addressing this gap through a focus on data’s increasing presence in urban development, this paper makes two contributions. First – drawing from the emerging literature on “data justice” – it presents an explicit, systematic and comprehensive new framework that can be used for analysis of datafication. Second, it applies the framework to four mapping initiatives in cities of the global South. These initiatives capture and visualise new data about marginalised communities: residents living in slums and other informal settlements about whom data has traditionally been lacking. Analysing across procedural, rights, instrumental and structural dimensions, it finds these initiatives deliver real incremental gains for their target communities. But it is external actors and wealthier communities that gain more; thus increasing relative inequality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)992-1011
JournalInformation, Communication & Society
Issue number7
Early online date13 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2019


  • data justice
  • datafication
  • developing countries
  • community mapping
  • inequality

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute
  • Manchester Urban Institute


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