Skip to main content
Passa alla visualizzazione normale.


“The datafication and commodification of Italian schools during the Covid-19 crisis. Implications for policy and future research”


Big Data and algorithms increasingly inform public policymaking and institutional practices, producing an impact on people’s everyday life. An emerging body of scholarly research—Critical Data Studies—has been working on this role shedding light on how society’s current platformisation is linked to a much longer privatization and reorganization of the public sector. This chapter intends to reflect on how the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically accelerated these processes focusing on school education in particular. Health Big Data and apps have been crucial to take concrete measures to fight the pandemic, while platforms have helped organize vaccination rounds. Nevertheless, they have also been politicized, if not ignored, manipulated, or used to control. Digital services and solutions have been crucial for schools too. At the beginning of April 2020, one month after the World Health Organization declaration of the global pandemic, schools and universities in 173 countries were closed, affecting almost 1.5 billion learners (84.8% of total) . The adoption of remote teaching – in most cases praiseworthily offered for free by big-tech companies – was the only solution, making it difficult to untangle the link between philanthropy and capitalism and discern between profit goals and charitable efforts. In a way, schools have become “experimental laboratories”, producing data and insights at an unprecedented scale, allowing educational technology businesses to make better plans for the future (Williamson et al., 2020). In this chapter, I first intend to make a short review of a growing body of critical research interested in opening up the “black-box society” (Pasquale, 2015) to understand the “materiality” of Big Data, algorithms and platforms and how they affect policymaking. I will then argue that the pandemic has given big-tech companies new territories to colonize and ultimately lock into self-perpetuating cycles of expansion. Finally, focusing on Italian public schools, I intend to show how during the pandemic remote teaching was mainly provided through corporate platforms raising concerns on how the industry-led digitalization and platformisation of Italian schools—in act well before the outbreak of the pandemic—is going to change the notion of education and public policymaking in this field.