Big Data for Migration Alliance Launches Call to Harness Responsible Data Innovation for Better Migration Governance

Berlin – At a time of exponential growth of data worldwide, non-traditional sources such as mobile phones, satellites and social media, and new analytical methods, such as machine–learning, can help improve the evidence base for migration policy and practice. However, the potential of these data sources to fill migration data gaps remains largely untapped across Europe and Africa. 

On 29 November, the Big Data for Migration Alliance (BD4M), in partnership with the African Union, launched a call to action focused on investing and strengthening capacities in ethical and responsible data innovation for migration analysis and policy.

The call to action was presented at the BD4M event Harnessing Data Innovation for Migration Policy in Europe and Africa, hosted by the Robert Bosch Foundation in Berlin, Germany, and livestreamed worldwide.

The call outlines six action points which stakeholders from national governments, regional and international organizations, businesses and civil society consider essential to accelerating the use of new data sources and methods to tackle critical migration policy challenges in the coming years. 

“Technological innovation is changing the way we produce and use evidence about migration; the issue is how to do so more systematically, ethically and responsibly,” said Frank Laczko, Director of the IOM Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC), which is the co-convenor of the BD4M.

“In an unpredictable world, people migrate for myriad reasons. There is a lot of need for data and tools that would make it possible to see in real time what is happening. Innovative data sources have a lot of potential in this sense,” said Dario Tarchi, Acting Head of Unit of the Demography, Migration and Governance unit at Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.

Sessions focused on exploring the prevalent information gaps in migration policy across African and European countries, including in relation to issues such as health and the environment, as well as the opportunities and challenges of forecasting methodologies, and the use of artificial intelligence for migration policy.

“It needs all possible stakeholders, from governments, civil society, international organizations, data scientists and others to accompany the change technological innovation will bring for migration and human mobility,” said Raphaela Schweiger, Program Director Migration at the Robert Bosch Stiftung during her welcome remarks. “Only then, can we use data tools and other technologies in a way that betters human lives and upholds human dignity.”

Participants also shared insights into ethical principles and fundamental rights implications of data innovation, and highlighted the need for standards and regulations to ensure the responsible use of personal information shared or analysed via new technologies for migration policymaking.

At the event, the BD4M announced the launch of a joint programme of work with the African Union to reinforce migration data innovation capacities in Africa at all levels – local, national, regional and continental.

The event, which is the first one focusing on data innovation for migration in Africa, also marked the launch of a study using Twitter data to assess near real-time public sentiment towards migrants during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 30 million tweets surveyed in five countries showed that public sentiment towards migrants tended to be negative during the observed period, but was offset by an increase in positive sentiment, possibly linked to the recognition of migrants’ contributions in essential sectors during the pandemic.

After the closing of the event, the film Radical Camp was screened to mark the start of the Global Migration Film Festival 2021 in Germany. The film tells the story of two teenagers who fall prey to radicalizing content on social media and serves as a cautionary tale of the unethical use of social media data and the dangers of misinformation that prevail there.

The BD4M is the first-ever dedicated network of stakeholders seeking to facilitate responsible data innovation and build partnerships to improve the evidence base on migration and human mobility and its use for policymaking. Convened by IOM GMDAC, the European Commission Knowledge Centre for Migration and Demography, and The GovLab at New York University, it aims to accelerate the ethical use of non-traditional data sources and innovative methods to support migration-related programming and policy on the global, national and local levels. Learn more:   

For more information, please contact:

Jorge Galindo, IOM GMDAC, Tel: +491601791536, Email:

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