It has been claimed in a blog post of The Economic Times dated 08.06.2015 by Vivek Wadhwa that ‘within 3-4 years, almost every adult in India will own a smartphone’. India saw a 55% increase in the number of smartphones, to 140 million, and the number of web users increased by 37%, to 232 million in 2014. According to a report titled Internet Trends 2015 by Mary Meeker, ‘Smartphones were the source of 65% of its internet traffic and 41% of ecommerce’. Couple of months ago The Economist claimed, ‘by 2020, 80% adult population of the world will won a smartphones’. It means, ‘the volume, velocity and variety of digital data will continue to skyrocket’, as Patrick Meier claimed.
A variety of data types such as text- coming from mainstream news articles, social media platforms; imagery- contains Instagram, professional photographs, satellite imagery and increasingly aerial imagery captured by UAVs and video- coming from TV channels, YouTube, Vimeo and other channels etc. comprise of Big Data. More than 20 million tweets sent during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. More than 182,000 tweets were sent in just 14 hours during the Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013. The Big Data is not only growing in the developed world, the developing world is experiencing rapid growth in data generation. The amount of Big Data created all over the world, a large part of them generated in the developing world.
Now, what to do with this huge big data? Big data can be enabler for permanent improvements that we all are looking for. However, we will have to look further ahead to notice such developments. Tweets, data from social networking sites, or mobile texts are not sufficient to really create future opportunities that could impact grassroots and developing countries on the long term. Thus, we need more data sources, ranging from data from NGO’s, to public data and social data. By analysing and using this big data properly, we can make a real difference. Big data could potentially help grassroots, organisations and governments to deal numerous problems of citizens, promote affordable democratic practice, engage more citizens; offering ‘power’ to the hands of citizens etc. For example, a recent study showed that the people in some countries are not literally starving of hunger. The study identified that they received enough food but diets were not adequately nutritious. It means, governments or aid organisations should not always provide only proper quantity of food for the people, but also proper quality of food i.e. nutritious food. Thus, a very positive difference that is possible to make with the help of Big Data analysis.
Millions of grassroots organisations, NGOs and CBOs are operating in different parts of the world. There are so many different NGO’s, volunteer networks, community based organisations active in the developing world, which all do extremely valuable work to reduce poverty, manage disaster response initiatives, reduce diseases, provide elementary education for poor children, offer food for hungers, protect human rights or provide shelter and other services. What if all those like-minded NGO’s, CBOs and other volunteer organisations would use one particular mobile app to collect data in the same consistent manner across villages of a country? A prospective mobile-based crowdsourcing app and also an ideal ‘mobile-based crowdsourcing model’ for grassroots could potentially to provide smart governance in the age of Big Data.
I do understand that in this post-Snowden era, the analysis of big data and the use of big data analytics in governance require a cultural and policy change. However, I firmly believe, this is the right time for advocating and asking for right changes for a healthier future world.