Big Data for Humanity

Auteur
Mieke van Heesewijk

How could the ever-growing amounts of digital data help us improve the conditions of the global poor? Will more data allow us to improve policy responses to humanitarian crises and violent conflicts? Could Big Data help us bring about peace, development and stability? The Hague was busy searching for an answer on these questions during the “Big Data for Peace Summer School” week on August 18th 2014. 

The public good

Big Data has often been described as a fuel for both innovation and our economy. It is being applied in many areas, for example financial markets, health and fast moving consumer goods. With this panel session, we wanted to explore current trends in and prospects for Big Data to become a driver for human development. One of the speakers was Robert Kirkpatrick, the director of Global Pulse. Global Pulse is a flagship innovation initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General on big data. Its vision is a future in which big data is harnessed safely and responsibly as a public good. 

A conversation about privacy

During the seminar Kirckpatrick spoke about the future possibilities of open data. Once anonymised to protect privacy, the same data, tools and methodologies can also reveal insights on changes in human well-being, real-time trends on population behaviour or perceptions related to sustainable development issues. Such insights can guide the public sector to respond more effectively to emerging crises and vulnerabilities.

Does big data represents a new natural resource with the potential to revolutionise sustainable development and humanitarian practice? We will have to find out in the future.

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