Frontier Data Study

The NIRAS Data Futures Hub is working with the Frontiers Technologies Hub (funded by the UK Department for International Development – DFID) to help DFID harness the potential of big data within the context of the wider evolving data landscape. The study will lead to practical guidance for Programme Managers and recommendations for future research.

Our focus is on how to use the most promising big data sources within international development programmes. But the strengths and weaknesses of big data need to be balanced with other types of data, both traditional and emerging. The ways we approach big data in development should also to try to support improvements in wider information systems used for decision-making in our societies.

DFID will make the results of the research publicly available in early 2020.

Our research agenda

Earlier in 2019, a DFID-wide staff survey identified big data analysis and applications as holding the greatest potential impact to its work. The Frontier Data Study aims to help unleash this potential by looking at:

  • How can big data specifically benefit the countries DFID works in?
  • What has the growing experience of using big data in development already taught us?
  • How do we harness big data to help make sure ‘no-one is left behind’?
  • How can we use big data ethically?
  • How do we best combine big data with traditional approaches to information and support sustainable data ecosystems in the countries DFID works in?
  • What’s ‘on the frontier’? What should we anticipate, and how do we get ourselves ready?

We are seeking a global co-creation of the research results, and for those results to be relevant for all development practitioners, data scientists, and official statisticians.

How to get involved

Our Global Stakeholder Survey  is open until 25 November 2019. Contributions from all types of individuals and organisations are welcomed. You can also post a comment at any time on our discussion forum.

We would also be interested in talking to or receiving views directly from stakeholders, either bilaterally or through participation in face-to-face workshops. If this is of interest, please get in touch with the study’s Team Leader at:


The Data Futures Hub will be developing and promoting tools to help us as a community move towards addressing the key questions of the Study. If you have ideas about other tools for us to share, please get in touch with our Project Technical Lead

Our current ‘Knowledge-Builders’ include: