Consider this fact, there was more data being produced in 2011 than there ever was in all of human history combined. Every time you used your email, or made a phone call, or used your social media site, you created new data. This huge amount of information can, if it’s analyzed correctly, be used for answering a number of various questions. This massive amount of data that is created, is stored by the government, the private sector, and various individuals and is known to them as Big Data.
Humanitarian entities, are trying to come to terms on how to use this ocean of information, and how it could help in delivering better services to communities. Here are a few things you should know about Big Data assisting humanitarian efforts.
“Finding ways to make big data useful to humanitarian decision makers is one of the great challenges, and opportunities, of the network age,” according to OCHA’s Humanitarian in the Network Age Report.
Access to real time information can actually help humanitarian entities by providing them with more specific targeted assistance, which would allow them to become more responsive towards the needs of a vulnerable community. It would allow them to respond more quickly to preemptive crises.
There’s actually a lot of work in the pipeline that humanitarians can capitalize on. Robert Kikpartick, who’s the Director of the UN Global Pulse said, “Global Pulse is an initiative that came out of the global financial crisis. There was a recognition that we now live in this hyper-connected world where information moves at the speed of light and a crisis can be all around the world very, very quickly,” he explained. “But we’re still using two- to three-year-old statistics to make most policy decisions.”
In the cases of both Cote d’Ivoire and Haiti, organizations had to negotiate with private telecommunication providers in order to access their data. Privacy and propriety concerns simply mean that many organizations are hesitant when it comes to sharing massive data reserves. Similarly, many governments are also unwilling to allow access to their data.
Social media is this one source where big data is accessible publicly. As a result, it has driven various humanitarian related researches, projects and innovations.
As the argument goes Big Data should lead towards more informed and better decision making. However regrettably, decisions are not always backed by evidence.
So, humanitarian agencies are looking towards Big Data as a form of hope that would allow them to use this massive pool of information helping them respond, react to, and recover from disasters.