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Big Data: From Business to Social Good

In today’s digital age, data has become one of the most valuable resources for businesses and organizations around the world. The ability to collect, process, and analyze vast amounts of information has led to significant advancements in fields such as healthcare, finance, and marketing. However, the power of big data extends far beyond just the corporate world. In this article, we explore the ways in which Big Data can create meaningful impact in our society, leveraging these advancements to not only drive profit but also make a positive contribution to the world.

So what is Big Data ?

As defined, “Big Data represents the Information assets characterized by such a High Volume, Velocity, and Variety to require specific Technology and Analytical Methods for its transformation into Value.” (De Mauro et al., 2016) However, the term can be confusing, as various papers and studies have tried to describe the phenomenon of Big Data and its characteristics.

Big Data is mostly known for its use in the business sector, where it is considered an asset to improve competitive advantages for both government organizations and businesses. However, its potential for social good has not been studied enough, as the phenomenon has mostly been associated to a capitalist view of the world. But, Big Data can play a much larger role in our society and have a positive social impact, creating both economic and social value.

Untapped Potential: Big Data’s Limited Use in Humanitarian Aid and INGOs

According to the UNHCR Innovation Service, the private sector is investing billions in technology companies and startups that can ingest vast amounts of data generated by citizens and help predict when, how, and what people are more likely to buy. In contrast, the opportunities of Big Data for the non-profit sector have not been developed and studied enough.

Big Data in Healthcare:
Despite this, Big Data has already started to be used for good, particularly in the healthcare sector. As the pandemic highlighted the weaknesses of the healthcare sector, many government agencies and healthcare companies have been trying to collect more health-related data to improve healthcare as a whole. However, Big Data’s potential for addressing broader social issues such as poverty, illness, conflict, migration, corruption, natural disasters, climate change, and pollution is still not clear.

The Role of INGOs in Utilizing Big Data for Social Good:
After reviewing the literature, it is evident that the literature rarely discusses how the humanitarian sector and its actors, particularly INGOs (International non-governmental organizations), collect, use, analyze, and derive insights and actions from Big Data. The concept of “Digital Humanitarians,” people who examine “how new uses of technology and vast quantities of digital data are transforming the way societies prepare for, respond to, cope with, and ultimately understand humanitarian disasters” (Meier, 2015, p.19), mainly focuses on social media.

So, Big Data has the potential to create meaningful change in our society beyond just the corporate world. The use of Big Data for social good can help address some of the most pressing issues facing our world today, from poverty and illness to conflict and climate change. However, for this potential to be fully realized, the non-profit sector must take an active role in utilizing Big Data to create social and economic value. INGOs, in particular, can play a critical role in this endeavor, leveraging their expertise in humanitarian aid to identify and address the most pressing social issues facing our world.

Sources :

  1. Big data ethics, Neil M. Richards, Jonathan H. King, 2014
  2. What is Big Data? A Consensual Definition and a Review of Key Research Topics, (De Mauro, A., Greco, M. and Grimaldi, M. (2016)
  3. Diebold, Francis X., A Personal Perspective on the Origin(s) and Development of ‘Big Data’: The Phenomenon, the Term, and the Discipline, 2012
  4. Wendy Arianne Günther, Mohammad H. Rezazade Mehrizi, Marleen Huysman, Frans Feldberg,
    Debating big data: A literature review on realizing value from big data,
  5. Big data means Big business, Douglas Laney, Gartner, 2013
  6. Digital Humanitarians: How Big Data Is Changing the Face of Humanitarian Response, Patrick Meier, 2015

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