It was author Randa Abdel-Fattah who said: “Belief means nothing without actions.” The same can be said of data. With data being collected at an estimated and astounding 2.5 quintillion bytes of daily data, these numbers are meaningless if not for the innovation and action of the humans generating it. Big Data is more than just the latest buzzword in the IT and business community. It is being used to improve the quality of life for millions of people around the world and bringing new opportunities for developing nations.
Three areas where big data is being used for social good are: agriculture, micro-credit loans for entrepreneurs in developing countries, and predicting then decreasing the prevalence of crime in high-risk regions.
Farmers for centuries have known their land, their crops, and weather patterns like the backs of their hands. However, as the world’s population continues to grow and the unpredictability of the environment and atmosphere, these variables threaten everything our farmers have relied on. The integration of Big Data in agriculture enables farmers to input data about their seeds, weather patterns, soil quality and saved them time and money in the face of the biggest threat to any industry, the natural environment. Through data aggregation technology, farmers are able to yield better crops, avoid droughts, work towards food security for the growing global population, and remove some of the guess work.
The availability of cell phones in developing countries is rapidly changing the quality of life for the people who live there. Aside from the ability to communicate on a larger scale, cell phone use in developing nations is increasing literacy and household incomes. As many people in the western world would know, cell phones collect a lot of data about the user, connects the user to the internet, receives and stores important correspondence which can instantly open doors of opportunity for employment.
Mobile crowdsourcing is being used to help entrepreneurs tap into micro-credit loans, supply donated water to drought-ridden areas of the world through NextDrop, and allow the underemployed to find work doing small jobs at a global-scale through application like Cloud Factory. Cellular phones have made the global economy scalable at an individual level. With the help of data collection, mobile applications, and cellphone access, we can finally make improvements to the quality of life around the world into a tangible reality.
Crime & Space:
Every year in every city there is a statistical report released to show how well (or not so well) law enforcement has been able to manage and deter illegal activities and crimes. It should come as no surprise that law-makers and enforcers are using big data as a predictive tool to determine the likelihood of crime at a regional level. There are many reports and studies around “contagious crime” or crime that is prevalent in areas that share the same characteristics. These characteristics include areas of high poverty, racial segregation, and past history of illegal activity. By recording data around these characteristics, time of year, places, and individuals involved, and creating positive relationships between these communities and law enforcement, crime is being controlled and mitigated before it happens with greater results and better outcomes.