How can Big Data help solve some of the world’s biggest challenges?

Wednesday 17 May is World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) with the theme “Big Data for Big Impact.” Jade Nester, Senior Policy Manager, GSMA, explores how Big Data can help solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.

This year we celebrate WTISD with the theme Big Data for Big Impact.  For the GSMA this is a hugely exciting time as data is an area where we can see real opportunity for mobile to make a positive contribution to global development.

At this year’s Mobile World Congress, GSMA launched a “Big Data for Social Good” initiative, which leverages mobile operators’ big data capabilities to address humanitarian crises, including epidemics and natural disasters. The initiative will use big data to build an ecosystem to support timely planning and response to crises. The initiative includes 16 of the world’s leading mobile operators, which collectively account for over 2 billion connections across more than 100 countries.

The initiative’s first pilot will begin in June, and will focus on developing capabilities to monitor, alert, predict and manage the spread of diseases. In the trials operators will employ common data feeds and algorithms to provide insights into human movement patterns. These insights will be enriched with third-party data sources to provide meaningful insights that local and international government and humanitarian agencies can use to make decisions on when, where and how to deploy resources.

The GSMA expects to publish the results of these trials at Mobile World Congress in February 2018.

In addition to the economic and social benefits of big data analytics, the GSMA is also focused on creating an enabling policy environment that would allow for the growth of the big data economy.  As the use of data continues to increase, it will impact everything around us, from connected cars to smarter homes, smarter cities, smarter health systems, better environmental management, and increased opportunities for learning. The opportunities are huge and the role that policy and government can play in enabling this development is crucial.

We recognise that existing privacy principles, such as the GSMA Mobile Privacy Principles, apply to big data, however, we would urge caution in respect to any new rules that restrict the legitimate use of data or metadata. We are also exploring innovative ways to provide meaningful choice, control and transparency to consumers about what data is collected and how it is used. User confidence and trust are also key issues and we are committed to working with stakeholders from across the mobile industry to develop a consistent approach to privacy protection and promote trust in mobile services.