By Stefaan Verhulst, Andrew Young and Prianka Srinivasan from The GovLab
Data is playing an ever-increasing role in bolstering businesses across Latin America – and the rest of the word. In Brazil, Mexico and Colombia alone, the revenue from Big Data is calculated at more than US$603.7 million, a market that is only set to increase as more companies across Latin America and the Caribbean embrace data-driven strategies to enhance their bottom-line. Brazilian banking giant Itau plans to create six data centers across the country, and already uses data collected from consumers online to improve cross-selling techniques and streamline their investments. Data from web-clicks, social media profiles, and telecommunication services is fueling a new generation of entrepreneurs keen to make big dollars from big data.
What if this same data could be used not just to improve business, but to improve the collective well-being of our communities, public spaces, and cities? Analysis of social media data can offer powerful insights to city officials into public trends and movements to better plan infrastructure and policies. Public health officials and humanitarian workers can use mobile phone data to, for instance, map human mobility and better target their interventions. By repurposing the data collected by companies for their business interests, governments, international organizations and NGOs can leverage big data insights for the greater public good.
Key question is thus: How to unlock useful data collected by corporations in a responsible manner and ensure its vast potential does not go to waste?
“Data Collaboratives” are emerging as a possible answer. Data collaboratives are a new type of public-private partnerships aimed at creating public value by exchanging data across sectors.
Research conducted by the GovLab finds that Data Collaboratives offer several potential benefits across a number of sectors, including humanitarian and anti-poverty efforts, urban planning, natural resource stewardship, health, and disaster management. As a greater number of companies in Latin America look to data to spur business interests, our research suggests that some companies are also sharing and collaborating around data to confront some of society’s most pressing problems.
Consider the following Data Collaboratives that seek to enhance:
- Situational Awareness and Response: For example, BBVA collaborated with UN Global Pulse to produce the Hurricane Odile research project which analyzes the anonymized financial data of BBVA’s clients to measure the resilience of communities following a natural disaster. This research can be used not only to support recovery services after a disaster strikes, but also for researching the adaptability of communities following a natural disaster.
- Public Service Design and Delivery: For example, Waze’s Connected Citizen’s program uses crowdsourced traffic information to help governments design transportation based on an improved understanding of citizen behavior. During the presidential election, the City of Rio de Janeiro accessed Waze’s traffic reports to better allocate transit management personnel to areas with the most congestion.
- Knowledge Creation and Transfer: For example, in a cross-sector partnership of public, non-profit and private organizations led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture, the web-platform “Clima y Sector Agropecuario Colombiano (CSAC)” provides valuable meteorological data to farmers, along with data on the economics and agronomy of rice cultivation.
- Prediction and Forecasting: For example, researchers from academic and public organizations in the UK and Brazil use crowdsourced geographic information from social media, combined with real-time environmental data and models, to monitor and create early flood and landslide warnings with a view to improve urban resilience.
- Impact Assessment and Evaluation: For example, through a data sharing agreement with Facebook, UNICEF analyzes Facebook trends and status updates to track and monitor the impact of their public health campaigns like those launched to combat Zika in Brazilian cities.
To be sure, data collaboratives do introduce some level of risk across the data lifecycle: gathering dirty data at the collection stage, failures to adequately secure data at the processing or sharing stage, the use of biased algorithms at the analyzing stage, and cumulative impacts at the using stage. The responsible use of private-sector data requires targeted risk mitigation strategies.
Our research suggests that such risks can be overcome through the development and implementation of a coherent data responsibility framework and the empowerment of data stewards in institutions tasked with ensuring responsible decision are made about data usages.
To learn more about how to create impactful cross-sector data sharing arrangements to create new public value, the GovLab developed the Designing a Data Collaborative Guide based on what is known in the practitioner and research community. The guide offers a step-by-step approach for unlocking the value of private-sector data, and is currently being tested with institutional partners like UNICEF.
To learn more about the GovLab’s work on Data Collaboratives or to explore partnership opportunities, please contact GovLab’s Co-Founder and Chief Research and Development Officer Stefaan Verhulst – firstname.lastname@example.org
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