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Data is changing the world. It influences our way of learning, communicating and consuming services. And it is affecting development, informing policymaking and empowering citizens.

Since the advent of the internet, the use of data has become widespread, with faster and more powerful tools to process online information and big data sets. For example, scientists can now collect information from sources such as social media or telecommunication databases to study people’s behaviours and disease patterns.

But as technical capabilities grow at ever increasing speeds, scientists and policymakers still struggle with ethical and political issues, particularly in the developing world.

In this month’s podcast, we focus on some of the main questions related to the use of data for development.

We speak with Birte Sniltsveit, an evaluation specialist who has helped to map large archives of academic information, making them available and easy to navigate, in an effort to inform policymaking around issues such as payment for environmental studies.

We then travel to Nepal with Vanessa Goas of Aid Data, where we discover how geocoding and mapping aid projects can help to improve the impact of spending.

But data isn’t just important for policymaking and research. It is also relevant for citizens concerned about their privacy. We talk about the ethics of big data for public health with researcher Effy Vayena, who wrote a recent study on the subject.

This is part of a set of pieces on data funded by the Hewlett Foundation.

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