[CODATA-international] Digital Feudalism

Ina Smith Ina at assaf.org.za
Mon Oct 14 03:33:43 EDT 2019

Dear Ross

Thanks for mentioning the African Open Science Platform (AOSP). During the pilot it was indeed established that trust would have to form the foundation when building the future AOSP, as indicated in our presentation during the Egypt Delivery Phase meeting<https://www.slideshare.net/AfricanOpenSciencePl/african-open-science-platform-pilot-study-and-landscape-findings> and in the brief narrative blog post<https://blog.doaj.org/2019/10/11/guest-post-overview-of-the-african-open-access-landscape-with-a-focus-on-scholarly-publishing/> (with the emphasis on scholarly publishing, but highly relevant to data) we published, based on the presentation. Trust is not something that one just establishes overnight – it takes a lot of understanding , effort and compassion – also of the dynamics at play in Africa, the history. In fact – we identify that – for a successful AOSP – the following would be key:

-       More collaboration between African countries, rather than always preferring to work with the more prestigious developed countries

-       Trust – knowing that AOSP will have African research’s best interest at heart

-       And it should be researcher-driven (although policies much needed too)

Strong leadership needed to take this forward, building on the work by the pilot.

With kind regards

PS: Hoping to join eResearch Australasia if all work out, and catch up!

From: CODATA-international [mailto:codata-international-bounces at lists.codata.org] On Behalf Of Ross Wilkinson
Sent: Monday, 14 October 2019 07:14
To: Florida Maritim <Florida.Maritim at kalro.org>
Cc: CODATA International <codata-international at lists.codata.org>
Subject: Re: [CODATA-international] Digital Feudalism

Hi all, and in response to Geoffrey’s request, I think a key measure of success of open data activities is partnerships formed, such as happens in Godan. In Australia, an opening up of astronomical pulsar data led to new partnerships between Australian and Chinese researchers. On the other hand partnerships need trust, so the issues that have been raised often reduce trust. I like the African Open Data Platform because it enables trust building and this new partnerships

Ross Wilkinson
+44 7491 705532 new European number

Ross Wilkinson
+44 7491 705532 new European number
On 13 Oct 2019, at 10:54 am, Florida Maritim <Florida.Maritim at kalro.org<mailto:Florida.Maritim at kalro.org>> wrote:
Drs. Kassim and Kiringai,

I concur since this is not the 1st time experts have come up with good ideas but they reach the dead-end for not being inclusive and multi-displinary and thanks for sharing and sincerity and this happens a lot even in the agricultural research sector in sub Saharan Africa, we have a number of excellent technologies and miss out on the adoption.


From: CODATA-international [mailto:codata-international-bounces at lists.codata.org] On Behalf Of Kiringai Kamau
Sent: Saturday, October 12, 2019 3:44 PM
To: Mwitondi, Kassim <K.Mwitondi at shu.ac.uk<mailto:K.Mwitondi at shu.ac.uk>>
Cc: CODATA International <codata-international at lists.codata.org<mailto:codata-international at lists.codata.org>>
Subject: Re: [CODATA-international] Digital Feudalism

Kassim, Niek

As you rightly say, most of the projects are undertaken from a top-down perspective, with limited sharing of knowledge among all the actors ... the beneficiaries rarely get to see the definition of the mission and the impatience to get started by those coming with the project funds creates no opportunity for any preparedness among the beneficiary partners. Where knowledgeable persons exist, they may only be hosted within institutions. In many cases, such institutions are not core/key actors in the problem/project definition. They are only invited, by a higher privileged office/officer, when everything has been defined and pathways of implementation determined at a political level they cannot question. Economic or political interests are the pathways that those with interests use to take advantage of a system they may know presents the opportunity to give them leeway to mine data for their use and leave with it. The projects therefore are not defined with any other intention other than the data sourcing for a song and empty promises by those portending to possess the knowledge that will develop a beneficiary country.

Realizing this challenge, the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition convened with ministers of the South-South an Open Data Conference in Nairobi where a Declaration was formulated. We are currently supporting African countries to evolve policies and frameworks that can advise compliance to national, regional and global agendas and in the process build local capacity key of which is data governance. I am convinced that we can sport feudal inclinations on behalf of partner countries in projects and therefore request anyone formulating a project that they feel should be bottom-up and create local knowledge should link up with GODAN through Suchith or myself (in case your area of focus is Africa).

Thanks, Suchith for sharing the Feudalism concerns.

Kiringai Kamau

On Sat, Oct 12, 2019 at 10:16 AM Mwitondi, Kassim <K.Mwitondi at shu.ac.uk<mailto:K.Mwitondi at shu.ac.uk>> wrote:
This is an instance of a biased data ownership. A few years ago I was working with a young African researcher on an agro-forestry research project. No sooner had we started than I realused that her centre had only some descriptive statistics but no direct access to the biomass data which she and her colleagues had spent months collecting from two islands! The vast chunk of the data had left with the development partners at the end of the project. It turned out, nobody at the centre had any knowledge or pressing interest to pursue the data and there was already new initiatives to run another project, which in my view was almost a duplicate of the first, but this time with a different development partner.

To cut the long story short, I have come across several cases of data ownership of this nature and my view is that it doesn't help much coining terminologies, as the best that can be achieved is a blame culture. Would I call that data capitalism? Colonialism? Feudalism? I never would! I have learnt, over the years, that proper problem identification is a major stride in working out the solution. Blaming it on one part marginalizing the other when it comes to data generation, access and ownership is stripping everyone on the project of a fundamental responsibility in managing the project.

Apparently, the problem starts with the project write-up. If the project recipient is fully engaged from project initiation to delivery, they surely should know how to access the data, as that is a key project deliverable. My personal experience is that there are a several factors that lead to this kind of situation. One, many project ideas are top-down, that is, they are not developed within the working conditions of the recipients. Two, there are often many gaps in engagement, mainly caused by near disparate motives on many projects, with the funders, experts and recipients not necessarily having the same perception, motives or knowledge. Put the two together and add the determined project timeline, you have a near disaster. But the tripartite interests to run projects continues and we are creating a vicious cycle. What is the solution? It must start from the recipients who must align each incoming project with their respective development strategies. They must present themselves as equal partners in defining the project problem and tracking and measuring its outcomes. They should be able to quantifiable identify what worked and what didn't and any there should be national institutions charged with such responsibility. I could be writing all night, I would rather stop here for now.



Dr Kassim S. Mwitondi
Sheffield Hallam University
Faculty of Science, Technology and Arts
Communication & Computing Research Centre
9410 Cantor Building, City Campus
153 Arundel Street
Sheffield, S1 2NU
United Kingdom
Tel. +44-114-2256914 (Direct)
Tel. +44-114-2255555 (General)
From: CODATA-international <codata-international-bounces at lists.codata.org<mailto:codata-international-bounces at lists.codata.org>> on behalf of Trimpact - Niek <niek at trimpact.nl<mailto:niek at trimpact.nl>>
Sent: 11 October 2019 18:12:22
To: 'Ernie Boyko' <boykern at yahoo.com<mailto:boykern at yahoo.com>>; 'CODATA International' <codata-international at lists.codata.org<mailto:codata-international at lists.codata.org>>; 'Suchith Anand' <Suchith.Anand at nottingham.ac.uk<mailto:Suchith.Anand at nottingham.ac.uk>>
Subject: Re: [CODATA-international] Digital Feudalism

Dear all,

This is indeed a huge problem. I also recently learned that information data from NGOs are best perhaps shared with some ministries in Bamako, Mali, but not within a region where the work is being done. This implies that local decision makers remain dependant on the information/data stream back from the ministries which may take some months, if ever. This can never be the purpose of the work executed.

Since most of the projects are financed with public funding for the benefit of de people in the given (development) country and data/information belong in fact to the real funds provider of the work (i.e. tax payers), claims of intellectual property rights that data belong to the project executors seem not applicable. Consequently, data and other information (e.g. lessons learned) should be shared at large to the population and other relevant stakeholders to avoid duplication of efforts.

A discussion worthwhile to be continued.

Kind regards,

Dr. Niek van Duivenbooden

[cid:image001.png at 01D58271.373D0980]  Bringing value to life

Mezenlaan 138  -  6951 HR Dieren  -  The Netherlands – T +31 61 13 81 061

KvK: 64218422   - niek at trimpact.nl<mailto:niek at trimpact.nl> - www.Trimpact.nl<http://www.trimpact.nl/>

Van: CODATA-international <codata-international-bounces at lists.codata.org<mailto:codata-international-bounces at lists.codata.org>> Namens Ernie Boyko
Verzonden: vrijdag 11 oktober 2019 15:26
Aan: CODATA International <codata-international at lists.codata.org<mailto:codata-international at lists.codata.org>>; Suchith Anand <Suchith.Anand at nottingham.ac.uk<mailto:Suchith.Anand at nottingham.ac.uk>>
Onderwerp: Re: [CODATA-international] Digital Feudalism

Thank you Suchith,

I have not heard that term before but I did run into   related term this week at the DDI-CODATA workshop here in Dagstuhl.  The term is Data Colonialism.  This often happens when a foreign entity (e.g., a development agency/project).e data are collected in a developing country and are taken out of the country.  They will leave behind some summary tables but will take the rich data and metadata away.  This makes it difficult to develop the data analysis and management skills within the country.

Thanks for the message.

Cheers, Ernie


Larrimac:  More than a golf course!

CODATA: Making data work together to improve science to support decision makers.

On Friday, October 11, 2019, 08:51:29 AM EDT, Suchith Anand <Suchith.Anand at nottingham.ac.uk<mailto:Suchith.Anand at nottingham.ac.uk>> wrote:

I came across a recent op-ed by Prof. Mariana Mazzucato on “Digital Feudalism”  at


Prof. Mazzucato is a leading researcher and thinker on Technology and Innovation, advisor to the European Commission on research and innovation strategy, and author of two important books on the subject “The Value of Everything” and “The Entrepreneurial State”.

The report on “Mission-oriented Research and Innovation in the European Union” might be of interest


Since the use of cloud platforms for GIS data analysis is having a huge impact on the GIS community, the subject is of relevance. I would like learn more on this

  1.  Are there any examples of Digital Feudalism in GIS?
  2.  How will Digital Feudalism in GIS affect our future generations?
  3.  What policies are governments, regulators doing to reduce Digital Feudalism in GIS?
  4.  What policies and curriculum are universities, educators adopting to reduce Digital Feudalism in GIS?

Best wishes,


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Kiringai Kamau

GODAN Africa Lead
Programme for Capacity Development in Africa (P4CDA Africa)
GODAN Head Office
845 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 0G4
Macdonald Campus, McGill University, 21111 Lakeshore Road, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC H9X 3V9

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