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Research Globalisation Studies Groningen (GSG)

Refugee Futures Initiative [RFI]

Improving lives and fostering integration with Big Data
29 January 2016

Why we need data-driven innovation for refugees
The EU faces a historic challenge. The recent increase of migration into the European Union has quickly led to a societal debate about the fundamental principles underpinning the socio-economic system established since the beginning of the Union. How do we take responsibility for those who flee from war-torn regions – both as a host nation and as a good neighbour in an interconnected world? How do we address the difficult challenge of supporting migrants and our existing society simultaneously? Any attempt to answer these questions will have to take account of the fact that we live in a digital age – connectivity and data collection has reached virtually all levels of society.

Big Data can contribute to social cohesion and fostering integration between communities, going beyond the commercial or security uses most commonly debated. The societal value of new data streams, and how data-driven innovation can have a positive impact on the way we live in a connected world, have thus far gone largely unnoticed. In order to leverage data as a force for good, we need to invest in a better understanding of how Big Data can contribute to concrete solutions of today’s societal challenges. The recent increase in migration flows provides an opportunity to do just that.

The Initiative
This initiative [1] is a pan-European effort that combines policy and data science expertise, driven by the wish to develop new tools that can help those engaged in refugee policy-making and related support initiatives. Its members include:



Centre for Innovation (Peace Informatics Lab), Leiden University

Dr. Ulrich Mans ( u.mans )

Globalisation Studies Groningen , Groningen University

Prof. Andrej Zwitter ( a.zwitter

Frankfurt Big Data Lab , Goethe UniversitÓ“t Frankfurt

Prof. Roberto Zicari and Dr. Karsten Tolle ( tolle )

Networking for Development Lab , University of Cambridge

Richard Dent ( rd459 )

Each partner has committed to support this initiative for an initial period of six months starting 1 February 2016.

• Access to relevant data
• Showcase prototypes of practical applications
• Support the creation of guidelines for responsible data use
• Recommendations to policy makers, governance and relevant NGOs

All projects will have a clear problem owner to safeguard human-centred design; all projects will be developed as modular tool in order to enable open-source collaboration. We aim to abide by ethical principles.

Way forward
The initiative will start to design a first pilot project, to be funded by a number of selected parties. The following milestones are:

Dec 2015: Coordination team established, Proposal Pilot finalised
Jan 2016: Outreach to 3-5 funders/stakeholders
19 Feb 2016: Meeting in The Hague
March-May 2016: Prepare Pilot May 2016: Go/no-go decision

[1] Discussions started at the Responsible Data for Development and Development Action Conference in The Hague on 23-24 October 2015

Last modified:06 February 2020 12.47 p.m.

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