Basanta Thapa
Basanta Thapa
Defining the problem means
defining the solution.?!
Whose knowledge counts?
Basanta Thapa
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Big Data in Government (Lightning Talk at the Herrenhausen Conference: "Big Data in a Transdisciplinary Perspective")

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Hello everyone, my name is Basanta Thapa, I am a first year PhD fellow in public policy at the University of Potsdam.
Let me begin by telling you a story: About 2015 years ago, Joseph and his very pregnant wife Maria were on their way to the town of Bethlehem to be taxed in the census by order of Emperor Augustus.
Let’s stop right here: I find it striking that one of the most famous stories in the world begins with a census – which, as we know from Professor Pescotts keynote speech last night, were the Big Data of their time. So why have governments always been among the foremost producers of Big Data? This takes me to one of the premises of my research.
Government is essentially a knowledge-based business. And the complex nexus of knowledge and power not only implies that detailed information about your people helps to rule and control but that power derives from determining which knowledge counts.
Based on research on wicked problems and framing effects, this can be distilled into the slogan: “Defining the problem means defining the solution.” Which is probably even more meaningful in our modern democracies than in the autocracies of Mary and Joseph’s time. This links to the core question of my PhD project:
“Whose knowledge counts?” as Big Data Analytics are introduced to policymaking? Big Data being most attractive to policymakers because of its granularity, hard-to-refute empiricism, and predictive qualities, it can be expected to make a powerful entrance.
Just remember that King Herod clumsily killed all male children below the age of two based on the three Magi’s prophecy of a newborn King of the Jews. How would that have played out had he had Big Data Analytics at his disposal?
So, as Big Data Analytics takes its place in government, how will established orders of knowledge and power shift among traditional knowledge sources like the experience of civil servants, the local knowledge of citizens, and the expertise of consultants and scientists?
To learn more about hypothetical answers to these questions and my PhD project in general, please visit my poster! Thank you!

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Big Data in Government (Lightning Talk at the Herrenhausen Conference: "Big Data in a Transdisciplinary Perspective")

  1. 1. Basanta Thapa
  2. 2. Basanta Thapa Defining the problem means defining the solution.?!
  3. 3. Whose knowledge counts? Basanta Thapa

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