Although big data is a term that is thrown around within academia, business and NGO work, not everyone understands what it really is and more importantly, what it does.
Big data is used to describe a large volume of structured and unstructured data that is so large that is difficult to process using traditional database and software techniques. The goal of data is to help businesses make decisions based on wide collected information, and it can be collected in many forms. Bid data is used by organizations to inform them about customers or clients. Through tools such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), mined data bits are extracted and easy to use to support and drive sales. Algorithms are then created and used for customer segmentation, grouping customers based on qualities such as demographics or behaviors. Marketers then target consumers with highly personalized campaigns. The concept can be simply: the more you know about your customer, the better you can service products to meet their needs and desires at the right time and the right place.
Data is a sought-out commodity these days and pure data players have become well known for collecting consumer data and not managing it well. Recent examples include Google when it was sued in 2019 by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) for the alleged misuse of personal data or the Facebook scandal where the British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of at least 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge, which in turn helped sway British elections.
But is data always used only for private companies’ benefit or can it also assist philanthropic and social based organizations to create better outcomes for people? The answer is yes, if focused on the right outcomes. Government involvement is the first key steps to developing ecosystems and opening data sets for people to use and disseminate. Educating different segments of society on the uses and positive benefits of data follows, such as financial services to help societies save money, data collection to improve public sector educational needs, or data analysis to better understand consumption/agricultural needs and target groups accordingly. And finally, legal frameworks need to be better established and governed internationally (such as GDPR in Europe) to ensure that companies are compliant and use data in an ethical manner that benefits humanity and enables the progress of society.