Poor na­tions need help to use big data to end poverty: Ex­pert

Lack of tech­nol­ogy in­fra­struc­ture is slow­ing big data an­a­lyt­ics

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

From boost­ing crop yields to con­trol­ling the spread of disease, big data an­a­lyt­ics is in­creas­ingly be­ing used by poor na­tions to tackle de­vel­op­ment chal­lenges but a lack of tech­nol­ogy in­fra­struc­ture is slow­ing ef­forts, a lead­ing ex­pert has warned. Paul Sz­yarto, head of the Big Data pro­gram at the US’s Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity, said many de­vel­op­ing na­tions are at­tempt­ing to col­lect, or­ga­nize and an­a­lyze large, var­ied data sets to un­cover pat­terns and trends to help ad­dress poverty.

For ex­am­ple, coun­tries like Kenya and In­dia are gath­er­ing data re­lated to weather pat­terns and us­ing mod­els to forecast cli­mate vari­a­tions, which can help farm­ers adapt agri­cul­tural prac­tices, boost crop yields and tackle hunger. While in West Africa, na­tions are try­ing to cap­ture data on pre­vi­ous disease out­breaks, such as Ebola, to pre­dict where an in­fec­tion may be­gin, what may cause its spread and iden­tify high risk zones which can be tar­geted with pre­ven­tion pro­grams.

But Sz­yarto told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion on Mon­day that de­vel­op­ing na­tions were not uti­liz­ing big data an­a­lyt­ics to its full po­ten­tial, largely due to low in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture such as hard­ware, servers and com­put­ers. “Thanks to tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced coun­tries, there are sev­eral mod­els which could be lever­aged to an­a­lyze data, but most de­vel­op­ing coun­tries lack the in­fra­struc­ture to cap­ture, gather, store and an­a­lyze the data be­ing cre­ated,” said Sz­yarto in an in­ter­view via email.

“Many of these coun­tries lack the tech­ni­cal de­vices in­ter­nally and ex­ter­nally to col­lect un­struc­tured data due to cor­rup­tion, low op­er­a­tional cash, and plagued poverty.” Sz­yarto said there were some ef­forts by Western gov­ern­ments and tech firms such as Mi­crosoft, Ama­zon, Face­book, and Google, to sup­port the de­vel­op­ment of data cap­ture and an­a­lyt­ics pro­grams in poor na­tions. To deal with in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tions and build smarter in­fra­struc­tures and cities, China is, for ex­am­ple, lever­ag­ing big data to un­der­stand how to best pro­vide so­lu­tions for wa­ter short­ages, hous­ing needs, and em­ploy­ment. While in coun­tries such as Tan­za­nia, Nepal and the Philip­pines, big data is be­ing used to un­der­stand weather and ge­o­graph­i­cal chal­lenges - from an­a­lyz­ing flood and earth­quake and tsunami risks - to strengthen dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness.

But Sz­yarto - who is a global ex­pert on busi­ness trans­for­ma­tion and ad­vises firms on mak­ing fun­da­men­tal changes in or­der to cope with shifts in the mar­ket en­vi­ron­ment - said much more needed to be done. “Many de­vel­op­ing coun­tries don’t pos­sess the knowl­edge needed to drive a value-added pro­gram around the use of big data,” he said. “Im­prov­ing the ca­pac­ity of de­vel­op­ing coun­tries be­gins with de­vel­oped coun­tries com­mu­ni­cat­ing the value of lever­ag­ing the data be­ing cre­ated, col­lected, and an­a­lyzed.” — Reuters

AL­LA­HABAD: A boy runs on a street in the rain. — AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.