With the explosion of social media sites and proliferation of digital computing devices and Internet access, massive amounts of public data is being generated on a daily basis. Efficient techniques/algorithms to analyze this massive amount of data can provide near real-time information about emerging trends and provide early warning in case of an imminent emergency (such as the outbreak of a viral disease). In addition, careful mining of these data can reveal many useful indicators of socioeconomic and political events, which can help in establishing effective public policies. The focus of this study is to review the application of big data analytics for the purpose of human development. The emerging ability to use big data techniques for development (BD4D) promises to revolutionalize healthcare, education, and agriculture; facilitate the alleviation of poverty; and help to deal with humanitarian crises and violent conflicts. Besides all the benefits, the large-scale deployment of BD4D is beset with several challenges due to the massive size, fast-changing and diverse nature of big data. The most pressing concerns relate to efficient data acquisition and sharing, establishing of context (e.g., geolocation and time) and veracity of a dataset, and ensuring appropriate privacy. In this study, we provide a review of existing BD4D work to study the impact of big data on the development of society. In addition to reviewing the important works, we also highlight important challenges and open issues.