Every day, each of us leaves a data trail behind us as we go about our lives. Thanks to cell phones, there is more up-to-date information available than ever before.
This data, when looked at from a slight distance, can share trends and information invaluable to development, says the head of Jakarta Pulse Lab, Derval Usher.
Jakarta Pulse Lab, an organisation attempting to harness the data to help in development, is headquartered in Indonesia and is a branch of the United Nations Global Pulse Lab - the brainchild of Ban Ki Moon.
Ms. Usher is in Samoa for the multi-regional preparation talks ahead of the SAMOA Pathway mid-term review next year to learn how the lab can help more small island developing states with their development.
“We’re very problem focused,” she said.
“Governments come to us with problems they need solving, and we develop a prototype to solve it.”
One way the lab has helped has been with public transport. Using social media like twitter, the lab is able to gather location data and track exactly where people are travelling to and from.
“Jakarta’s public transport system is heaving."
“By mapping common routes digitally, we were able to feed that back to city planners so that bus routes can be better planned,” Ms. Usher said.
Big data, or digital information gathered en masse (all together) doesn’t individually identify users or their personal information. Rather, in large numbers it is insightful and can inform policy.
Ms Usher said the more up-to-date data is harnessed the more effective and evidence based policies can be, ultimately better serving the development of a nation.
“Big data can inform social policy, finance, disaster planning and resilience. We are trying to understand how we can automate the process of deciding how to use resources,” she said.
Partner governments and businesses can build up their platforms however they like, Ms. Usher said.
“It’s just a platform – so you can have a consumer feedback mechanism, direct alerts to people through the mobile carriers, citizens reporting in during a disaster,” she said.
Samoa has great potential to utilise the Pulse Lab, and with a growing generation of digital natives it would be a missed opportunity not to take advantage, Ms. Usher said.