BCL for mitigating the digital divide in China

Hopefully, this under-drafting manuscript would appear in an international journal in 2015.


Mind the gap, mitigate the divide: Visualizing (open) big data of cities in the developing world


Xingjian Liu (UNC-Charlotte, USA), Ying Long (Beijing Institute of City Planning, China), Dong Li (China Academy of Urban Planning), and Jianghao Wang (China Academy of Sciences)


While urban studies are embracing new opportunities provided by big data and information visualization, researchers still lament the difficulty of attaining urban data for developing countries. In other words, there is a widening divide in terms of data availability between cities in the developed and developing world. In addition to this developed/developing digital divide, China is also facing an institution-induced digital divide: a gap between data available to research and data gathered through official channels, as the government exercises tight control of official data. We aim to mitigate this gap by illustrating how the collection, analysis, and visualization of big (open) data can open up new avenues for understanding cities in the developing world. Focusing on the Chinese capital Beijing, we demonstrate that our visual analytics are useful in inter alia (1) depicting land parcels automatically from Open Street Map (OSM); (2) visualizing urban cultural landscape based on information from online business cataloguing websites; (3) identifying urban functions and land use from crowd-sourced Point-of-Interests (POIs); (4) exploring urban social dynamics with social network and mobile phone data; as well as (5) monitoring hourly urban air quality. As most developing countries lack of official digital infrastructures, we believe that (open) big data would be a promising alternative data source. The developed methods can be easily extended and applied to other cities, as we primarily draw upon open data. Most datasets and associated visualizations will be freely available from the Beijing City Lab.


Key words: Big data, visualization, developing world, Beijing City Lab


For more information about the Beijing City Lab: http://longy.jimdo.com/members/

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