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Project on Big Data Innovation and Governance

State powers and private industries have historically and symbiotically implemented new information and communication technologies (ICTs) to advance their operational goals—primarily to improve their managerial efficiency and effectiveness. The industrial revolution of the early to mid 20th century has been described as a period when public and private institutions learned to ‘automate’ their operations by designing technologies that completed the work previously done by human agents. The information revolution of the mid to late 20th century has been described as a period when a new generation of ICT infrastructures enabled widespread lateral connectivity of individuals and publics. In turn, the data revolution of the nascent 21st century can be described as having introduced deeper relational opportunities for marrying device data with user networks—powered in large part by the expansion of mobiles, wearables, and the ‘internet of things.’ What do state powers hope to marshal from big data infrastructure projects for their governance interests and goals? Where and when are private high technology sectors being engaged in constructing and instrumentalizing these infrastructures as governance technologies? How might these developments restructure the evolving relationships between states and citizens, and consumer society and public culture, especially in varying conditions of democratization and development?

Much of what is known about the United States’ mass surveillance infrastructure is due to the whistleblowing and data breaches provided by technocrats-turned-dissidents like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. However, while much global attention has narrowed to critiquing the efforts of established advanced industrialized Western democracies in constructing mass ‘relational’ data aggregation and filtering infrastructures with the participation and/or deception of the global high technology industry, most policy experts and technology activists have ignored the national infrastructure projects being constructed in plain sight in the emerging democracies and established authoritarian powers in the global system. China and India constitute the world’s largest nation-states, and are projected to be so through the forecasted turning-point period of the (re-)centering of global power in 2050, when collectively the working-age populations and economic contributions of East, South, and Southeast Asian states will account for the majority of the world population and therefore its economic and political center. Of the 408 population-data infrastructures identified by our group researchers between January to August 2016, two in particular are of the most conceptual complexity, theoretical interest, and significant impact to academic research and public policy concerns: India’s Developing Biometric Data Infrastructure and China’s Planned Social Credit Infrastructure.

This research group, on ‘big data innovation industries’ examines how the governance systems in China, India, and the United States are investing in the future high technology infrastructures for, and designing the new policy norms and conditions to regulate mass personal data collection.  Moreover, because these three nation-states are widely regarded as current or forecasted superpowers in the areas of military, culture, and economic might, this study will closely investigate how their distinct and overlapping approaches to big data innovation are having regional diffusion of norms and transfer of technocratic knowledge and expertise in the global system. Between 2016-2018 (AY 2016, 2017, and 2018), our group will investigate the state-backed transnational cross-sector collaborations taking place in three of the largest population-level data integration infrastructures being constructed in world history: China’s Planned Social Credit Infrastructure, India’s Developing Biometric ID Infrastructure, and the United States’ relational mass surveillance infrastructure of US and global citizens. Collectively, these data infrastructures account for 3.05+ billion citizens – the largest and most ambitious private/public cross-sector governance innovation collaborations known to history.

Contact Information


Muzammil Hussain -


Graduate Students

Undergraduate and Students from other Departments and Institutions

Wei Chen - Graduate Student, Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Nadiya Kostyuk - Graduate Student, LSA Political Science
Nicholas Moore - Undergraduate Student, LSA Communication Studies & LSA Political Science
Peiyu Yu - BA, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy