The term “Big Data” refers to huge amounts of data that are available from different sources and devices like device sensors, social media sites, internet search engines, GPS signals from mobile phones, digital pictures and videos, transaction records of sales and purchases etc.
The term Big Data describes large volume of data– both structured and unstructured beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, curate, manage, and process data within a tolerable elapsed time. Big Data is what organizations do with the data that matters. Big data can be analyzed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves.
These data are generated continuously and keeps on piling. Therefore, it becomes very difficult for the organizations to handle and process these data through traditional databases and data management techniques. These data can be in structured, semi-structured and even unstructured forms. Technically “Big Data” is defined by 6 dimensions also known as the “6 Vs“, namely volume (referring to the vast amount of data generated from different sources), Variety (referring to the types of data that is generated), Velocity (referring to the high speed with which these data is being generated), Veracity (referring to the degree to which these data can be trusted), Value (referring to the business value of these data), Variability (referring to ways in which the data can be used and formatted).
Since the traditional data management techniques and software are not capable of handling and processing such enormous amounts of data advanced statistical skills and computing are needed to manage these data and to process it in order to extract meaningful information out of it.
The subject matter dealing with the use of advanced analytical tools and methods to analyze and process Big Data to extract meaningful information out of the data is known as Big Data Analytics (BDA). The information derived using BDA can be used by the organizations to make informed decisions. The most popular and common technological platform used for this purpose is Hadoop.
Applications of Big Data Analytics
Since there are multitudes of sources around us from where Big Data may be obtained. The usefulness of BDA can be realized in almost every field, as far as our everyday life is concerned.
For example, in the field of public policymaking BDA can be used in several areas ranging from transforming government programmes and empowering citizens, improving transparency, enabling the participation of all stakeholders. Several countries like UK, USA, European Union member countries, Japan etc. have already started several initiatives for harnessing big data to make informed decisions in public policymaking.
In the education sector, BDA can be used to design highly customized learning experience based on the learning capabilities of the students. Additionally, Big Data also provides real-time feedback on the learner’s behavioural pattern, which in turn helps the educators to modify the curriculum, in such a way so that the grades of the students can be improved. These highly customized learning programmes also allow the students to choose subjects based on their interest. Several recognized platforms in the education sector, in India and abroad, like Byju’s, Coursera etc. are already using BDA to provide learner-centric teaching-learning experience.
BDA also finds various application in the field of healthcare ranging from diagnosis of potential health hazards, to medical research. Devices like Fitbit, Jawbone, Samsung Gear etc. allows the user to track and upload their health data into online clouds, which may be later used by doctors, medical researchers for diagnosis and research purposes respectively.
In the field of trade and commerce, there are two very important areas that BDA has been providing a lot of benefits. The first is in Supply Chain Management, where BDA has been helping the business organizations to have a better understanding of the needs of their customers and thereby improve their services to enhance customer satisfaction. The second is in designing online marketplaces, where BDA provides inputs to the organizations to make informed decisions in areas like the setting of prices for the commodities, discount rates that may be given, the effectiveness of advertisements etc. so as to increase the profit of the organizations.
These are some of the major areas where BDA has been providing enormous benefits.
As far as India is concerned , with a population of around 1.3 billion use of BDA will reap a lot of benefits in different areas like providing speedy government services, tracking disasters so that timely interventions can be provided by the disaster response teams, tracking the spread of infectious diseases so as to provide effective and timely interventions to contain the diseases and prevent an epidemic etc. BDA also has enormous potential to create a large number of jobs in India, which has one of the highest numbers of engineering and mathematics graduates in the world.
Initiatives of the Government of India with Regard to Promotion of BDA
Realizing the myriads of benefits that BDA can reap to the citizens of India, the Government of India in collaboration with different organizations have launched several initiatives to promote the use of BDA. The Open Government Data Platform initiative provides analysts, researchers and practitioners access to public data.
The National Data and Analytics Platform (NDAP), which is currently under development, is an initiative of NITI Aayog in collaboration with different private sectors, which will act as a” single source of sectoral data for citizens, policymakers and researchers”. Use of Aadhar Data for authentication purposes for providing welfare scheme benefits helps in the “filtering of ghost beneficiaries“.
The Digital India programme, which aims to “transform India into digitally empowered society and knowledge economy” via establishment of high-speed internet connectivity in rural areas, providing Wi-Fi access to about 2.5 lakh schools, all the universities, major tourist centres etc.
The above mentioned are some of the major initiatives of the Government of India.
Problems and Concerns Regarding the Use of Big Data Analytics in Everyday Life
Although the use of BDA brings many benefits in different areas of our day to day life at the same time it also comes with a lot of issues that should not be underestimated.
One of the major concerns is the notion of privacy of the consumers that the organizations using BDA, seeks to undermine and violate in every possible way. Through various methods, we unknowingly have been submitting personal data to different organizations (both public and private), with little or no safeguards regarding their use by these organizations. There are many documented incidents regarding the unconsented “mining” of health data of people from African Nations, where data protection laws are nonexistent, by nations of the west for various research purposes.
Other major concern areas regarding BDA includes the rising cost of storing huge amounts of data, identification and elimination of out of context data etc. among many others.
Also, the notion that BDA based applications helps in informed decision making is not always true as has been shown by catastrophic failures of Big Data based software applications like Google Flue Trends (GFT) etc.
Various Domestic and International Laws and Regulations to Address the Privacy Issues Concerning Big Data
Since in recent times, we are seeing more and more socio-economic interactions taking place through various online platforms, protecting the privacy of the consumers is a big concern for all the nations around the world.
Surveys conducted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) shows that nearly 132 countries around the world have adopted data protection laws in some form or the other, to protect the personal data of their citizens.
Some of the major laws in this regard that has been adopted in recent times include the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) adopted by the European Union (EU) in the year 2018 (which is a landmark regulation, conferring many different rights to the citizens of the member nations of the EU regarding their interactions with the data controllers (organizations which determines why and how data is being collected ) including the right to delete their personal data, subject to certain conditions) , The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) adopted by the state of California (of the USA) in the year 2018 (which provides its citizen consumers more control over their personal information that the business organizations collect).
Right to privacy is an intrinsic part of the fundamental right to life and liberty granted under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, has been declared by the Honorable Supreme Court of India in its landmark judgment in the Justice K.S. Puttaswamy case in the year 2017. Subsequently, the government of India have introduced the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 in the Parliament as an attempt to bring forth a legislation to protect the personal information of citizens of India. The Bill which is yet to become a law, is in many ways inspired by the provisions of the GDPR and the recommendations of Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee.
Conclusion and Way Forward
From the increasing amount of interactions taking place online, it is imperative that that the government and various public and private organizations will increase their dependence on Big Data Analytics in conducting their day to day operations. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that the various loopholes and issues that comes with the use of BDA are addressed as quickly as possible.
The major concern, which is related to the issue of privacy can be addressed in different ways one of which is already emphasized in one of the recommendations of Justice B.N Srikrishna Committee i.e. data localization, which involves allowing personal data of Indian citizens to be stored and processed only in India. One way to achieve this is to create a policy framework involving appropriate subsidies so as to encourage multinational companies to build large data centres in India to store the bulk of the data collected from Indian consumers rather than exporting them to their home data centres located abroad.
More and more research and development projects needs to be initiated in the field of BDA, to understand how the various loopholes with regard to privacy can be closed and how to store the increasing amounts of data in an economic way, so as to reduce the burden on national economy.
More and more provisions should be incorporated in the software applications, that collects Big Data, so as to allow the consumers to have greater control with regard to the use of their personal information by the data handlers.