Big Data is the new black. Numerous reports, articles and even entire books are devoted to how Big Data, variously defined, offers news ways to better our lives. Humanitarian aid and relief organisations are themselves publicly thinking about how best to embrace a world awash in information. Whereas just a few years ago, the challenge was to capture and generate information around and on humanitarian disasters and protracted conflict, today it is more about how best to select, verify and then action relief and aid using information in the public domain.
Though the potential of Big Data is often flagged, there is still a lack of evidence based discussion on how Big Data really helps aid and relief, conflict prevention, community resilience, public empathy, timely response and long-term engagement with complex crises. Is Big Data a passing fad? Does Big Data disempower local communities as much as it can democratise data analysis? How can we address challenges of data retention, the right to be forgotten and the ethics of using and archiving rapid assessment data over the longer term? What if any are new responsibilities of humanitarians, including volunteers, to ensure increasingly large and comprehensive datasets, often generated in good faith and freely available, aren’t leveraged to discriminate and harm? How can we ensure that Big Data empowers individuals over institutions and that it helps communities themselves to mitigate, respond to and recover from conflict and disasters? How should we capture best practices and innovative thinking around the generation and use of Big Data? How can we integrate a rights based perspective, including a gendered critique, in Big Data debates? This panel will explore these issues with a robust examination of Big Data’s role and relevance in addressing some of the most pressing challenges facing communities, governments, civil society, the international system and the aid community today.
Watch the video from ICT4Peace Foundation here.