Big Data for Development: From Information- to Knowledge Societies

39 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2013 Last revised: 24 Jan 2013

See all articles by Martin Hilbert

Martin Hilbert

University of California, Davis

Date Written: January 15, 2013


The article uses an established three-dimensional conceptual framework to systematically review literature and empirical evidence related to the prerequisites, opportunities, and threats of Big Data Analysis for international development. On the one hand, the advent of Big Data delivers the cost-effective prospect to improve decision-making in critical development areas such as health care, employment, economic productivity, crime and security, and natural disaster and resource management. This provides a wealth of opportunities for developing countries. On the other hand, all the well-known caveats of the Big Data debate, such as privacy concerns, interoperability challenges, and the almighty power of imperfect algorithms, are aggravated in developing countries by long-standing development challenges like lacking technological infrastructure and economic and human resource scarcity. This has the potential to result in a new kind of digital divide: a divide in data-based knowledge to inform intelligent decision-making. This shows that the exploration of data-based knowledge to improve development is not automatic and requires tailor-made policy choices that help to foster this emerging paradigm.

Keywords: Big Data, development, developing countries, ICT4D, economic development, information and communication technology

Suggested Citation

Hilbert, Martin, Big Data for Development: From Information- to Knowledge Societies (January 15, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Martin Hilbert (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis ( email )

One Shields Avenue
Apt 153
Davis, CA 95616
United States


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