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May 17, 2017

World Telecommunication and Information Society Day: Big Data making a big impact to boost the SDGs

By Houlin Zhao

17 May is World Telecommunication and Information Society Day with the theme “Big Data for Big Impact.” ITU and our members are exploring how Big Data can help solve the world’s biggest challenges.

Today the world recognizes World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) and the opportunities to leverage Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

This year the theme “Big Data for Big Impact” explores the many ways that big data can make big impacts towards the realization of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Here are just a few ways that we see big data helping to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges:

Rather than relying on census data, researchers have found a way to map poverty from space, helping to predict migration patterns and better predict needs. Even social media data is helping to show high-density poverty areas globally.

The World Food Programme, along with partners, is using Big Data to analyze food security in regions by analyzing the links between mobile phone use and hunger.

Across India, doctors are leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data with an integrated neonatal monitoring service to collect data on the health of newborns across the country to better predict needs and make investments in health care services.

Educational applications for Big Data abound. At EPFL, machine learning is being applied to the huge amounts of data being produced in an attempt to solve complex issues in fields such as statistics, textual analysis and many others.

The availability and use of quality gender data in policy making and advocacy could impact the lives of women and girls, and help bridge gender gaps. Big Data analytics can help capture a more complete picture of women’s realities in key areas such as health, education, employment and more.

Big Data analytics play a vital role in smart water management, the measurement and monitoring of water supplies, and the evaluation of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) conditions.

Applying Big Data analytics in renewable energy sector can effectively minimize costs and risk, optimize the technology and design, and increase productivity. For example, real-time data gathered from satellites, radars and weather stations can be used to predict power generation needs.

Extracting datasets can provide decision makers insight on how to tackle existing problems and identify the key areas needed for inclusive growth such as youth employment and entrepreneurship.

Big Data applications are aiding urban planners make better investments in infrastructure projects. For example, New York Air Brake, is helping railway operators understand the data generated by their control systems through software and have allowed operators to cut emissions and save money.

Big Data is particularly relevant to the analysis of inequality, allowing researchers to see patterns in data over space and time. By analyzing large data sets, we can reveal inequality both within and among countries.

Swisscom and IMD’s Smart City Project shows that with Big Data, cities can take better decisions when investing in key infrastructure improvements including roadways to minimize traffic congestion.

Big Data innovations are empowering consumers to understand their own consumption patterns and to make more informed choices about the products they buy and the impacts on the environment.

Big Data tools enable decisionmakers to take action and drive innovation. For example, Big Data generated by mobile and computer devices can provide valuable insights on climate change.

Monitoring and tracking data generated by satellites and local sensors give researchers access to real-time updates as well as analysis on long-term trends of important indicators such as marine biodiversity, ecosystem and pollution.

Big Data applications allow researchers and scientists to analyze short- and long-term trends on biodiversity, pollution, weather patterns and ecosystem evolution. For example, HP Earth Insights, a joint initiative by Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Conservation International, created an early warning system for endangered species in tropical ecosystems.

Making use of vast amount of data and making the data accessible to public promotes an informed society and enhances citizen participation. Big Data applications can also effectively improve transparency and strengthen institutions at all levels. The United Nations Interregional Criminal and Justice Research Institute is currently working on developing capacity-building programs using Big Data to counter organized cybercrime, as well as future scenarios of cyberterrorism.

Big Data plays a key role in driving innovation and helping us extrapolate deeper meaning in natural and social sciences. Cross-sector, cross-agency, cross-border data collaboration is critical to maximizing the impact of Big Data. Helix Nebula Initiative is a public-private partnership that aims to explore the benefits cloud services for Big Data applications.

Houlin Zhao (@ITUSecGen) was elected 19th Secretary-General of the ITU at the Busan Plenipotentiary Conference in October 2014. He took up his post on 1 January, 2015.Prior to his election, he served two terms of office as ITU Deputy Secretary-General (2007-2014), as well as two terms as elected Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (1999-2006). He is committed to further streamlining ITU’s efficiency, to strengthening its membership base through greater involvement of the academic community and of small- and medium-sized enterprises, and to broadening multistakeholder participation in ITU’s work. He is married with one son and two grandchildren.

Don’t Forget! Tune in to our live webcast of an expert #WTISD panel discussing Big Data for Big Impact on 17 May – more information here.

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World Telecommunication and Information Society Day: Big Data making a big impact to boost the SDGs

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