At Teradata, we’re always talking about data: how to get more of it, what to do with it and why it matters. But beyond our own applications, data is also top of mind as our culture becomes more intertwined with technology and we depend more and more on digital tools for virtually every aspect of our daily lives.
Granted, the pace of digital innovation is faster than anything we have ever seen, and many have grown wary of how quickly (and often unpredictably) change happens in a data-driven world. Legislators and others are working to minimize negative impacts by bringing regulation to data and protecting privacy, but I’m not surprised that many remain skeptical about who is collecting information and how it’s being used.
That’s why every now and then I find it worthwhile to step away from marketing campaigns and cloud marketing applications to take a look at how data is being used to make positive impacts in other areas. Big data and sophisticated analytics tools can be used to cut through the clutter to provide accurate information to those who can help, and when used in various capacities this approach has the power to truly transform the world. Consider some recent ways that big data has been used for good:
Providing aid during natural disasters. The earthquakes in Nepal this year have killed more than 8,500 people, left hundreds of thousands homeless and millions more needing assistance. Big data is at the heart of that assistance, from Facebook’s Safety Check to crisis maps that connect the hardest hit areas with relief organizations. Data is also collected and analyzed every time a natural disaster strikes to help scientists better predict the next event and find faster, more effective ways to prevent them and protect people.
Solving crimes and finding criminals. As technology becomes more ubiquitous, the general public has been playing a larger role in helping authorities crack down on crime, from call-in TV shows to Amber Alerts. In the aftermath of the bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013, the FBI took advantage of this valuable resource by asking witnesses and marathon attendees to submit their text messages, photos, photos and video to compile and consider it all as evidence that they could link together to try to quickly find the people responsible. Big data is even being used to predict the likelihood of crime and stop it before it begins, especially by financial institutions looking to stop bank fraud.
Preventing disease on a global scale. It’s no surprise that medical researchers love data. But the data they’re using for modern disease prevention and healthcare isn’t just medical – it’s social, environmental, even economic. Patterns that indicate how and where diseases are spread can lead more quickly to stopping a virus in its tracks. Determining contributing factors like poor air quality or inadequate access to clean water can help aid organizations provide targeted solutions. Technology companies that are well versed in collecting and analyzing data have the potential to contribute resources to not only keep diseases from spreading but also prevent them from happening at all.
Our digitally-obsessed culture and the unknowns about big data may occasionally earn negative press, but there’s no denying that data analytics, from amateur crowd-sourcing to hi-tech biomedical inquiry, can help mitigate the impacts of natural disasters, keep communities safe and improve human health across the world. In many ways, big data is the key to creating a better world now and for the future.