July 10, 2017

Poor Nations Underserved by Big Data

Alex Woodie

(Icon Craft Studio/Shutterstock)

Poor nations in developing parts of the world are not keeping up with the level of big data investments made by rich western nations, according to experts in academia.

It’s tough to go a full day in the United States without interacting with big data and artificial intelligence in some shape or form. Americans interact with predictive technologies all the time – when they’re shopping, when they’re driving, and when they’re watching a video on YouTube.

And we have come to expect even greater benefits from big data in the future, from solving cancer and climate change to personalized medicine and intelligent robot concierges.

But for all the progress that western nations are making, it’s also creating a gap between the data haves and the have nots. In particular, developing nations are among the most at risk from falling behind in the big data race, according to Paul Szyarto, head of the big data program at Rutgers University.

“Thanks to technologically advanced countries, there are several models which could be leveraged to analyze data, but most developing countries lack the infrastructure to capture, gather, store and analyze the data being created,” Szyarto told Thomson Reuters’ reporter Nita Bhalla. “Many of these countries lack the technical devices internally and externally to collect unstructured data due to corruption, low operational cash, and plagued poverty.”

That doesn’t mean that developing countries are doing nothing in this regard. According to Szyarto, India and Kenya are using big data techniques to analyze weather patterns in the hopes of boosting farmers’ crop yields. West African countries are also using big data tech to help track the spread of the Ebola virus. The Philippines, Tanzania, and Nepal also have big data projects.

But more needs to be done, he says. “Many developing countries don’t possess the knowledge needed to drive a value-added program around the use of big data,” Szyarto says. “Improving the capacity of developing countries begins with developed countries communicating the value of leveraging the data being created, collected, and analyzed.”

The problem comes down to available resources. Developing countries simply don’t have as much to invest in the computing infrastructure, including servers and storage arrays, to be able to store and analyze the data.

Szyarto gave credit to the work that tech giants like Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are doing to make big data analytics more available to developing nations. Considering how advanced the mobile networks are in many of the developing countries compared to the United States, storing and analyzing big data in the cloud would make sense.

You can read the full Thomson Reuters Foundation article here.

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