IGF 2022 Town Hall #53 Social Justice during Rapid Datafication

Thursday, 1st December, 2022 (06:30 UTC) - Thursday, 1st December, 2022 (07:30 UTC)

Round Table - Circle - 60 Min


An interactive session wherein participants are encouraged to join the discussion. The goal of the session is to share different perspectives on social justice in relation to global trends of rapid datafication and increased reliance on the internet.

The session starts with a short presentation of key findings from the data justice research report. How do government actors, tech developers and civil society members in Southeast Asia encounter and interpret data justice? Additionally we share concrete examples of how increased datafication and reliance on the internet is affecting the lives of vulnerable communities.

Finally we link our findings to the global efforts of the Advancing Data Justice Research and Practice (ADJRP) project, which this research was part of.

The global ADJRP project serves as an example of the importance of North-South and South-South cooperation when introducing ethics into practices of data collection, governance, and analysis. Global cooperation is key to remain cognisant of the potential risks that (historic) unequal relations between countries and between regional and international tech platforms can bring when trying to define international data governance standards.

The discussions will be stimulated by the following questions

  • How do we ensure governments regulate the online collection, analysis, and usage of data that treats the individuals linked to this data in a dignified manner?
  • How do we contextualize people’s relationship with data and their culturally shaped notions of privacy in the process of policymaking?
  • How can vulnerable communities across the globe have increased control over the ways they live and engage with data and its technologies?
  • Does the concept of Data Justice aid in promoting the social, economic and political inclusion of all?
  • How inevitable is the technological advancement and digitalisation of societies worldwide?

Watch this Short video documentary introducing Data Justice

 Read our full report on Data Justice here





  • Egbert Wits, Research and Program Manager, EngageMedia
  • Thompson Chengeta, Researcher, Advancing Data Justice Research and Practice Project
  • Vino Lucero, Project and Communications Manager, EngageMedia
  • Katerina Francisco, Editorial Coordinator, EngageMedia
  • Egbert Wits, Research Manager, EngageMedia.
  • Thompson Chengeta, Researcher, Advancing Data Justice Research and Practice Project.
  • Rosamund Powell, Ethics Research, Alan Turing Institute.
Onsite Moderator

Red Tani, Program Director, EngageMedia

Online Moderator

Vino Lucero, Project and Communications Manager, EngageMedia


Katerina Francisco, Editorial Coordinator, EngageMedia



Targets: 9.1 Data Justice studies the intricate relationship between datafication and social justice. A free internet and increased transparency around data processing and online data infrastructures, including clear regulations on data governance by both public and private parties, will lead to more equitable and just access to and usage of the internet. 10.2 Inclusive representation of all within the data sets that drive technological advancement, algorithms and artificial intelligence online will increase social, economical and political justice. 16.3 Data Justice calls for a regulation that guarantees the online collection, analysis, and usage of data treats the individuals linked to this data in a dignified manner. 16.10 Data Justice calls for increased transparency over how data is collected, governed and analyzed online. Increased transparency will lead to the public having better access to information. 17.6 The ADJRP project that this research is part of, forms an excellent example of better North-South and South-South cooperation on access to technology, innovation and enhanced knowledge sharing.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Understanding the impact of datafication in people’s lives and crafting data governance standards need to be predicated on critically examining power dynamics.

How data justice affects human rights largely depends on who holds the power to set governance mechanisms or influence the use of data. To ensure equity, the state, tech groups, academe, and civil society actors must be cognisant of power relations and include diverse perspectives.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Increased awareness for the social justice implications of newly introduced technologies.

Be careful in considering technological advancement as a necessity for the progress of humanity.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

Rapid developments in technology and the datafication of society are seen as inevitable by most members of society. According to research conducted by EngageMedia among Indonesian and Philippine respondents as part of the Alan Turing Institute’s Advancing Data Justice Research and Practice (ADJRP) project, people seldom question the advancement of technology. This reliance on technology fuels endless data collection – every click, scroll, and tap on digital devices generates massive amounts of data that define people’s identities and inform their participation in and access to key everyday activities, from financial transactions to communications. The vast amounts of data being collected are not always leading to better policies or actionable knowledge. Should one collect data for the sake of its collection, or should outcomes of data collection always be leading? Again, a question that is not often asked.

With the datafication of society, humans exist as both physical and digital beings. When it comes to that digital being, how just is society when regulating this online person? The positive view of technology and datafication glosses over critical questions, particularly about the purposes of the collection, use, and processing of data, and who benefits in this process.

The research by EngageMedia and the Alan Turing Institute is an attempt to expand research on data justice and critically question how people understand the concept of data justice and the impact of datafication on their lives. Based on the insights shared by the speakers and panel members during the IGF session, data collection does not always translate to actionable knowledge that improves people’s living conditions, especially those for whom datafication tends to facilitate their exclusion and exploitation further. One example is the case of an Indonesian research respondent who was unable to have her ID card reflect her gender because the system did not allow for it, until a government official stepped in and offered to change it for her manually, after seeing and confirming the individual's new gender identity in person.

At the core of the issue is the need to question and examine power dynamics critically, particularly concerning fairness and equity in the way people are made visible and represented in the production and analysis of data. In discussions on defining data justice or setting data governance mechanisms, whose ideas take precedence? Too often, the voices of communities in the Global South are not adequately captured in these discussions. During the IGF session, participants stressed the need to ensure a diversity of views and understand people’s different lived experiences. Their experience of datafication – its harms and benefits – may be different from the experiences of those in the Global North, and to ensure inclusion and equity it is important to be mindful of whose voices are being heard in the conversation. The dignity of every individual should be at the centre of determining these values.

Based on the research, and echoed during the IGF session, the correlation between data justice and human rights is dependent on power. One example raised during the session was about an individual whose digital data, and by extension, his digital identity, was wiped out in armed conflict, presenting a host of complications for how he can access essential services and fully exercise his rights. In this case, the loss of data and his online personhood is not an individual failing, but the fault of the institution holding power. Such institutions are no longer limited to the government: non-state actors, such as technology developers, now have the power to collect, use, and store data, impacting people's lives worldwide. But the question on accountability and the obligation to protect this data presents no straightforward answer.

What is clear, however, is the need to centre human rights and social justice in discussions on data justice, and ensure the diversity of views and critical examination of power dynamics in such conversations. These will be crucial in informing and shaping the body of knowledge to guide policymakers, technology developers, and other relevant actors in embedding fairness and equity in data governance mechanisms.