Navigation around Big Data; Its Threats and Solving Our Leading Challenges.
Let me begin this piece of writing by asking some simple question. How much of your personal information is out there? How much do people know about you on the social platforms? I am compelled to write about this in respect to a presentation given last week about the opportunities and threats of big data. I intend to give a local and contextual approach on the opportunities around big data to help us tackle our challenges. Secondly, we will look at the threats presented by big data and how we can go about it.
Before I began writing this, I asked myself a basic question too. If I walked to Safaricom center and asked about my last year’s data at their disposal, would they give it to me? I am almost certain they won’t. But then, that data is a gold mine that could threaten as well as help us solve our leading challenges as a country and a continent at large.
In this age of information, communication and technology, generating data is an everyday thing. Servers belonging to leading ICT firms are full of lots of data. Let us brainstorm around solving hunger challenge, poverty, and natural disasters.
Some time back in Tunisia, the largest revolution was sparked by the broadcasting of an individual who had set themselves ablaze due to mistreatment. Despite the fact that there was a lot of inequality in access to broadband in the country, that single act was able to begin one of the largest uprisings in the continent. International media broadcasted that act and in no time citizens started tweeting and talking about it on Facebook.
In the country of Haiti, a huge earthquake hit part of it and in no time people started tweeting live pictures and videos. A small group in the United States of America swung into action and started using real time GPS mapping to get information about the part hit by the earthquake. The resulting data generated was able to help the rescuers to locate victims in the debris and help them. The same was used to a good extent in the hurricane that hit the USA(Harvey and Irma most recently). I am compelled to believe that big data and technology was used when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.
Back home, we have seen a rapid increase in the number of mobile phones in use each year in the country from around 2006. Today there are more mobile phones than the people, how? Most people have more than one phone. This means that the leading communication giant companies have data banks. Weather forecasting companies have lots of data at their disposal too.
For instance, we need to study the rainfall trends throughout the country and develop predictive models to help us juggle around farming trends. This is the only way we can be able to start the fight against hunger. We also have a lot of data regarding the harvest quantities around the country. Studying the trends in the production patterns can help us predict harvests and in turn prepare us for any future predicament.
In the arid and semi-arid areas, we can use social media sites such as Facebook and twitter to mine important data regarding challenges such as hunger and drought. A hashtag around hunger and drought challenges can help get real time data from the real victims; and of course we can distinguish the real victims from the general public. Using GPS we can then be able to locate the victims during disasters and help them with food supplies.
However, for this to work properly, we need to have a corruption free society. Corruption happens to be the leading challenge in most African countries. One thing stands promising too, that it is ICT that is driving revolutions around corrupt leaders. Last week saw Jacob Zuma become the latest to be ousted because of corruption allegations and charges. Big data can help you realize how Information Communication Technology played part to his resignation.
Truth be told that there are many revolutions cooking in other African countries to ouster corrupt and abusive leaders off public offices. Unfortunately most of them are not able to learn from their colleagues that “the black age” is long gone. You either deliver or get out of the way. Africa is rising courtesy of communication technology empowerment and big data.
In Kenya, we need to know precisely when floods are looming and be able to know the precautionary measures. Leading communications giants have real time data on our locations. We of course need to have a database for all people whose locations have shown them to be in Budalangi, Yala, Nyando or even North Eastern. Simply said, anybody in or has been in a recurring disaster zone.
Once such a disaster as floods or hunger sets in, we can be able to locate the people in our databases and if their locations are identified, we can be able to know if they are in need of help or at risk of being affected. Then we scurry into action.
For this to succeed, we need to share this data with the stakeholders such as the Kenya Red Cross and other disaster response units such as the St. John Ambulance services and even international aid organizations who can help.
This poses a challenge because there has been no free sharing or exchange of data among the stakeholders. In the recent past, there have been claims that the some countries are stealing other countries’ data. Data is power and can threaten global peace. We are at an era where your location is open to other people, they know your likes and tastes and even political alignments.
It only takes a slight misuse of the data and we start a war. We only need to ignite a small fire among the extremists within us and a world explosion erupts which can begin the information age revolution. It calls for a wise use of the data in our disposal.
For the meantime, we can use the data to bring about change and solve our leading problems while looking for probable approaches towards mitigating on the dangers that can arise from misuse of the data in our disposal.
Copyright @ 2018.