Big data is having a profound social impact

Big data is having a profound social impact

Big data is having a profound social impact

If you’ve ever interacted with me you’ll know that I’m passionate about how big data can deliver competitive advantage to organisations.  I believe that organisations that leverage big data analytics and adopt a data driven culture will outperform their peers.

However in this post, I’d like to share how big data is having a profound social impact in our community.  Here are a couple examples that I’ve found interesting.

Aadhaar Project in India

In India, there is a problem in that a sizeable proportion of aid does not reach the intended recipients due to corruption and fraud.  Claims made by “ghost citizens” deny the target recipients from receiving much needed assistance.  With the majority of the aid recipients having limited forms of identification, this problem needs to be solved.

The Aadhaar project operated by the Indian government is in the process of issuing unique identifiers to all its citizens.  The system stores biometric data that include iris scans of both eyes and all fingerprints.  When making a claim, a person can be authenticated in real time that ensures aid is reaching the intended recipients.  The project is making excellent progress with over 925 million identification numbers issued representing more than 76 percent of the population.  This is the largest citizen authentication system in the world and it has been facilitated by modern big data technologies.

Hadoop is the big data technology that underpins this project.  It has allowed this project to be delivered in a far more cost effective manner than using traditional technologies.  I’d like to congratulate our team members in India for the pivotal role they played on this project.

Crime Prevention

When a violent crime occurs, we learn in hindsight factors that may have indicated the likelihood of the offender committing a crime.  Surely with big data analytics we should be able to predict the likelihood of an offender committing a crime?  I’m pleased to report that there has been significant progress in this area.

One example is the Harvard Medical School working with the US military to analyse 975,057 soldiers who served between 2004 and 2009.  Sourcing data from 38 different data sources, they identified a ‘high risk’ group that represented only 5 percent of the population.

This ‘high risk’ group accounted for 36% of the crimes committed by men and 33% of the crimes committed by women.  The study identified 24 different factors that may indicate a crime being committed in the future.  This insight could direct resources in the form of counselling or training to this ‘high risk’ group.  Even if a small proportion of these crimes can be avoided, the return on investment is significant.

These are just a couple of examples of how big data is having a profound social impact in our community.  If you have some ideas on how big data could be applied to social causes, please comment below.  I know many people in the big data space that want to be involved in these types of projects.


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