Over the last few decades information communication technologies (ICT) have developed gradually and brought many changes to global and international development. The rise of the social media and evolution of big data are one of them. In order to talk about big data in the context of social media we have to understand what big data means.
So let’s imagine the time when there were no computers yet and all the information was stored in written sources – books, letters and etc. Let’s imagine that we have so many of these sources that we have to open a huge library that would help anyone to find any small text or photo they need. This means that library must have a clear system and the ways to find any information quickly.
The same thing happened with the digital data. However, the amount of it is more than enormous comparing to written sources. Sometime ago this process of handling and storing information was covered by simple databases, but when practically everything that goes on in our society moved into a virtual space, all the impressive amount of information needed to have impressive programs. This is where the term “Big Data” came from.
Many authors compare big data with the fuel that drives the next industrial revolution into every aspect of economic and social life (Spratt & Baker, 2016). Soon, particularly in developing countries, big data will be able to help to improve even areas such as government decision-making, implementation of social welfare programs or scientific research (Read, Taithe & Mac Ginty, 2016).
There are lot’s great benefits associated with big data. However, big risks are also widely discussed. The tree main big risks can be the following:
- Quantity and the quality does not match. Having a large amount of data does not necessarily mean having a high-quality data. For example, many of the developments in digital humanitarianism are based on what is possible rather than what is needed (Read, Taithe & Mac Ginty, 2016).More and more money is being invested in developing these technologies but their use is often limited.
- Moreover, everything can be tracked – how, why and by whom information is collected, stored and processed. Social media, music or videos have all been stored as a data that has become available for analysis. For example, Facebook always can show where you are or when was the last time when you were online.
- Furthermore, it can cause big privacy problems. Data protection online is a significant and increasingly urgent challenge especially in the previously mentioned networking platforms and many others, such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatssap, Uber or AirBnB which have shown how huge amount of data can be achieved in the short period of time (Data protection regulations and international data flows: Implications for trade and development, 2016) and, for example, how sharing one post on Facebook can make a difference.
Taking everything into consideration, it seems that big data will become inevitable everywhere. Nevertheless, despite its benefits, the three examples of the main risks of big data mentioned above are currently seen as very important challenges in the international development field which will be discussed in more detail later.
Thus, even if a huge amount of money is being invested in developing and improving digital technologies, their use is still quite limited. Also, these are the early days of the data revolution and many uses of it still remain unforeseen. Moreover, human impact how information is gathered and used needs to be considered too.
Therefore, thinking about the potential of big data, it requires more consideration about information gathering and processing especially in the light of accuracy, risk evaluation and assessment.
Read, R., Taithe, B., Mac Ginty, R. 2016: Data hubris? Humanitarian information systems and the mirage of technology, Third World Quarterly, forthcoming.
Spratt, S., Baker, J., 2016: Big Data and International Development: Impacts, Scenarios and Policy Options. Brighton: IDS.
Data protection regulations and international data flows: Implications for trade and development. UNCTAD (2016)