Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Big Data Offers Humanitarian Relief

          If someone asked you to find the most effective and efficient response to a humanitarian crisis one of the last places you would think to look would be in big data analytics, however the current refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East says otherwise. The Swedish Migration Board has turned to big data analytics in an effort to plan out the growing migration rate and so far they have seen great results. Head of operational control for the board praises big data analytics for helping predict the amount of resources like food, buses, shelter necessary and even time it would take to process all of the new refugees. The Swedish Migration board estimates they are effectively prepared for the next three to six months of increased migration however, what they are doing is only scratching the surface of big data's role in the not-for-profit sector. 
          Today many large corporations like Capital One, Stop & Shop and Starbucks use big data to gather consumer data and provide products and format marketing strategies that coincide with current consumer trends (SDC 1). This has turned big data into its own industry as companies have sprouted up offering data services, big data storage and infrastructure platform providers (Marr, 1). Now how could such a money maker like this actually benefit humanitarian aid? Basically by using the same principles of tracking and analyzing consumer habits however, instead of spending habits big data for non-profit organizations would track donating habits of individuals. Instead of blanket fundraising efforts non-profit organizations can now target their efforts to consumers and organizations that will actually support their cause. An example brought up in the article is a new project being launched by The PeaceTech Lab. The Open Situation Room Exchange (OSRx) is designed to "empower greater collective impact in preventing or mitigating serious violent conflicts in particular arenas through collaboration and data-sharing" (Pratt, 6). In Essence this exchange will allow for both people and organizations to share data and eventually resources that could streamline humanitarian efforts across the globe.
          This is an exciting break for non-profit companies as more targeted fundraising strategies can now lead to more effective fundraising efforts. There is still a long way to go however, outside of the Swedish Board of Migration example there are not many proven examples of big data's efficiency in the non-profit sector. Also while big data analytics was key in the Swedish case, it was a very particular circumstance with a controlled number of refugees entering the country. Humanitarian aid assists in many different scenarios and big data analytics has yet to prove effective in the less predictable areas of this sector such as natural disasters and most likely cannot account for political instability which is another common cause for the need of humanitarian aid. Even experts in the field acknowledge that technology has its shortcomings but, they believe that big data will be the tool that allows people to solve this major problem. But still the future looks bright as many non-profits implement big data analytics to their business strategies and even if big data can never fully predict the volatile element of human activity there is definitely still a fundraising market for problems that already exist like hunger and poverty.
"4 Big Companies Using Big Data Successfully." RSS. Smart Data Collective, 14 July 2015. Web. 09 Feb. 2016. <http://www.smartdatacollective.com/jessoaks11/330428/4-big-companies-using-big-data-successfully>.

Marr, Bernard. "How To Find The Best Big Data Product Or Service Vendors?" Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. 09 Feb. 2016. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2016/02/09/how-to-find-the-best-big-data-product-or-service-vendors/#62e8afbc75bf>.

Pratt, Mary K. "Big Data's Big Role in Humanitarian Aid." ITNews. N.p., 08 Feb. 2016. Web. 09 Feb. 2016. <http://www.itnews.com/article/3027117/big-data/big-datas-big-role-in-humanitarian-aid.html>. (Main Article)

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