Data Colonization is Real

The current century is the century of the advent of many new technologies and innovations. To name a few: Wired connections are becoming wireless; Paper-works are becoming paperless; Cash transactions are becoming cashless. With the advent of such technologies and innovations, the time has come where data has become an important fuel.

Due to rise in demand for rich data, numerous entities are living in dire thirst for data colonization, where it stands for ‘a tool to analyze emerging forms of political control and economic dispossession’ (Couldry & Mejias, 2018). Companies which “consume” so much data all over the globe like Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. to name a few. These companies are global colonizers of data involved exploiting rights of privacy, mining business trends and creating social paranoia.

Data colonization is an issue that is worth bringing into the limelight of mainstream decision-makers like governments as it exploits the rights of vast masses of societies and even to individual levels. In this data-driven revolution, global corporate giants are exploiting every bit of data they are accessible to.

For instance, through the smartphones that a person living in a remote village in Bhutan, a company based in the heart of New York City can understand the person’s likes and dislikes. Such companies are mobilizing so much of resources in expanding their reach to extract such data. Such companies take advantage of the porous security provided by electronic devices which the global market trusts as a means of communicating.

In Mukesh Ambani’s address in Vibrant Gujarat Global Submit 2019, he expressed his concerns over this issue. He asserted, “Gandhiji had led the movement against political colonization. Today, we have to collectively launch a new movement against data colonization. In this new world, data is the new oil. And, data is new wealth.”

He stressed on India stating that “India’s data must be controlled and owned by the Indian people and not by corporates, especially global corporations. For India to succeed in this data-driven revolution, we will have to migrate the control and ownership of Indian data back to India. In other words, Indian wealth back to every Indian.” There is already the feeling of India being a victim of data colonialism. Bhutan as a country, with its economy tightly pegged on the Indian economy, is largely at an unavoidable danger.

As a developing country, Bhutan needs to be extra careful about its own data. For a small-economy country like Bhutan and inhabited by vulnerable societies, global online business driven by poorly coordinated data can devastate the local economy, lose sanctity of culture and beliefs preserved over generations.

To cite some instances indicating data colonialism in Bhutan are online shopping habits driven by internet browsing habits, the prevalence of western culture, and access to illicit online resources.

References

Couldry, N., & Mejias, U. (2018). Data Colonialism: rethinking big data’s relation to the contemporary subject. Retrieved from http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/89511/1/Couldry_Data-colonialism_Accepted.pdf