Changing the world – the role of big data

On September 2015 world leaders reached an agreement of a universal world changing agenda consisting of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs, also known as the 2030 Agenda build on the framework of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and aim to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

The new Goals are unique in that way that they are universal and call for action by all countries, poor, rich and middle-income to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. Unlike the MDGs does the 2030 Agenda take into consideration all three dimensions of sustainable development, social, economic and environmental and integrate these into the Global Goals.

Although the SDGs are not legally binding, all governments are expected to take ownership and establish national frameworks for the achievement of the 17 Goals. Each countries have the primary responsibility for follow-up and review of the progress made in implementing the Goals within their borders, which will require quality, accessible and timely data collection. Regional follow-up and review will be based on national-level analyses and contribute to follow-up and review at the global level.

In order to establish these 17 Global Goals and in order for countries to be able to measure and review progress, quality information and data is needed. Data are the lifeblood of decision-making and irreplaceable tool used to compare outcomes and changes over time and between and within countries, and continuing to do so, year after year.

The ability to capture, store, and analyze enormous amounts of human and machine data, and then to make predictions from it, is what’s known as big data and data are being created from more sources and at a much faster rate than ever before.

In the past, processing power was the limiting factor in analyzing large data sets. This has changed radically from the early days of computing and today, advances in computing power have led to massive improvements in many areas such as processing speed, data storage capacity, analysis of data, and connections between data sources and processors via the internet.

Since 2000, the work involved in monitoring the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has encouraged increased investment to improve data for monitoring and accountability. As a result, more is known today about the state of the world and, particularly, the poorest people in it. But still huge data and knowledge gaps remain, and many people and groups still go uncounted. These gaps of information limit countries’ ability to act and to communicate honestly with the public.  For example, months after the Ebola outbreak it was still hard to know exactly how many people had died, or where.

Now, 17 years later, with even higher goals and a new ambitious world agenda for sustainable development requires another significant increase in the data and information that is available to individuals, governments, civil society, companies and international organizations to plan, monitor and be held accountable for their actions. Without high-quality data providing the right information on the right things at the right time; designing, monitoring and evaluating effective policies becomes almost impossible.


United Nations (2017) The Sustainable Development Agenda. (Retrieved 2017-09-28)

Feinleib, D. (2013) Big Data Demystified: How Big Data Is Changing the Way We Live, Love and Learn, San Francisco: The Big Data Group

Claire Melamed, (2014) A world that counts. Independent Expert Advisory Secretariat Group, Green Communication Design Inc.

Spratt, S,. Baker, J. (2016) Big Data and International Development: Impacts, Scenarios and Policy Options. Brighton: IDS.

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#EarlyMomentsMatter and Who’s Paying Attention?

A quarter of young children in developing countries are missing out on reading, playing, drawing, and singing with their parents according to a report on early child development released last week by UNICEF. One of the main focuses of the report was the lack of stimulation among young children in the developing world and the ramifications of this being deficient cognitive development. The report is full of data and interactive media which is easily shared on the web all of which is wrought with helpful information and suggestions for development organizations as well as parents/caretakers in developing countries in order to help children to improve their situation and thus improve early childhood development. Yet it begs the question, in the digital age how can those in the developing world gain access to this important information? As such I hope to explore the reach of UNICEF’s report via digital means and in some small way to raise awareness of the situation.

Upon visiting the lead-in page to the report on the first thing one will notice is the header, which is a large picture of a father holding up his baby titled #EarlyMomentsMatter. Given the advent of hashtag activism and its importance in today’s communication for development, let’s have a look at who and where #EarlyMomentsMatter is reaching.

#EarlyMomentsMatter: A father plays with his child


Starting from September 211st, the date of the report’s release, we can see that there have been 6.5 thousand posts regarding #EarlyMomentsMatter at the time of writing this post. This is not a large amount of posts when we compare it to #TakeAKnee, related to the National Football League protests earlier this week, which garnered 3.8 million posts in the same period. While, the difference in both subject matter and amount of posts is quite significant between the two hashtags, perhaps what is more important for the UNICEF report is where the posts are coming from.


Looking at the data it can be seen that there is a fairly even split between posts coming from developed nations and developing nations. Yet if we continue to look at the chart we can see that the largest share of posts are coming out of the US with 43.7% and the second largest percentage coming out of India at 8.7%. Following the top three countries the post percentages drop down to below 3% each for the remaining top 100 posting nations.



So, what can be interpreted from this data? Implementation of the goals of UNICEF’s report remain a largely top-down procedure focused on NGO’S and governments, while at the grass-roots level there is not much awareness being raised. While the report itself is geared more to policy makers, there is also content geared towards parents/caretakers in developing countries in order to improve early childhood development at its source. Based on the data we can see from the lack of overall posts involving #EarlyMomentsMatter, and in particular the lack of substantial numbers of posts from developing nations that this report and its multimedia may not be reaching its target from the bottom up.

As the reports main focus is on the first 1000 days of a child’s life it would make sense to improve the speed with which parents and caregivers could gain access to the information. In the digital age it seems that this could be done more efficiently by targeting a wide variety of social media platforms more tailored to local internet sensitivities. As someone currently living in China, a nation where Twitter is blocked, I have found that Sina Weibo’s, the country’s most popular microblogging site, own UNICEF account has made no mention of the report or the hashtag. While this is only one example of a misstep in ICT4D, more should be done to reach out to those in developing nations in an ever-increasing digital age as internet users continue to grow by the day. I look forward to following this report and #EarlyMomentsMatter and viewing whether the trend continues along the same path.

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Development on Gender Equality

UN has published 17 sustainable development goals to guide the role of public, non-profit, for-profit, and voluntary sectors in global development. One goal among these 17 goals is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Here, I like to discuss about some situations of gender inequality that prevails in the society.

  • When men and women not treated equally.
  • When voices of women are supressed.
  • When women do not get equal rights for education.
  • When men enjoy certain benefits over women in many fields.
  • When achievement of women is unjustly neglected.
  • When men misuse their powerful position to control women.
  • When higher and powerful positions are denied to women in all fields.

These kind of gender inequality and exploitation has been predominant in all societies of the world. This is existing form ancient times till now in the era of literacy and awareness about the equality of rights among male and female sex. Most of the community in the world are male dominant whereas women are treated as an object just for pleasure, not as an esteemed creation of God. All over the world, women are not given equal rights as the men and they are mostly abused by men. They continue to suffer discrimination and violence in every part of the world. The poverty can be reduced by educating every single girl. This directly relates to the development of the society. I feel, gender equality is not only a fundamental human rights, but it is a mandatory foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. By providing girls and women with equal access to education, health care, software, and representation in political & economic decision making processes will provide sustainable economics and also benefit societies & humanity.

Recently, many digital campaign was organized in order to eliminate Gender Inequality. Gender Equality is considered as a human fight, not a female fight! When the world is fighting for this, global brands have already made feminism their own. As this burning issue takes the central stage, we celebrate all those campaigns that have thrived through powerful content on social media.

  • #LikaAGirl and #WeSeeEqual

This is a Campaign launched by Procter & Gamble (P&G) in order to create a better world through gender equality and it is leveraging insights to uncover gender bias and take action to spark conservations and set new expectations that motivate change. This campaign will focus on leveraging its voice in media and advertising, helping to remove gender-biased barriers to provide education for girls and economic opportunities for women and removing obstacles to equal representation of women at all levels of its company.

  • #GirlsCount

ONE Organization launched this digital campaign in order to demand education for all girls and women. Poverty is sexist, girls in the poorest countries are less likely to receive an education than boys. This means a generation of girls is being denied the education they need to get a job, broaden their opportunities and break the cycle of poverty. #GirlsCount features people across the world joining forces by filming themselves counting a number between one and 130million out loud. People who want help change the lives of millions of girls around the world can join the campaign by counting a number and posting the video or picture online. The organization plans to combine the videos into the world’s longest ever film to promote and emphasise world leaders to take the action needed to ensure every girl receives a quality education.

  • Always #LikeAGirl

 A social experiment was conducted to change the idea of the age old phrase #LikeAGirl, which is usually taken in a negative light. The idea was to convert this very term into something that represents – strength, talent, character, and positivity.

  • BBC #100Women

 To target and engage female audiences, BBC came up with a campaign that narrated stories of inspirational women around the globe. The content was disseminated and translated in eight languages to reach out on a global audience.

  • #HeForShe

A solidarity movement initiated by UN Women, the campaign #HeForShe engaged men to advocate the message of gender equality. Kick starting a global conservation, this campaign aimed at reaching out on a global level to spread the message of equality.

  • Lane Bryant #ImNoAngel

Lane Bryant campaign celebrates women of all sizes and shapes, taking a direct jibe at Victoria’s secret. This campaign redefines traditional social norms with a powerful message that all women are sexy irrespective of their bodies.

To conclude, all this campaign brought major change in the society. Development in media has emphasised this change in Gender Equality. Gender stereotypes can play a vital role in guiding and shaping attitude. It is important to notice that biased media content leads many individuals to make interferences. This will help the people to internalise the socially constructed image of femininity and masculinity which is represented in the media. Females nowadays have visible presence in a public sphere as businesswomen, police offices, professors, doctors, politicians, technicians, pilot, engineers etc. Thus I conclude, by saying all social marketers, policy makers and commercial producers must encourage non-gender biased messages in public announcement promoting Gender Equality.

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