By now, we are all familiar with the term “big data” — we read and hear about it everywhere — as it has become a prevalent concept in a variety of fields and industries, and rightfully so.
There is a ton of information and digital insights available that can equip leaders to make informed decisions with confidence and meet their objectives in the most efficient, beneficial way possible.
But how data can be incorporated into the decision-making process will depend on a number of factors, such as your business goals and the types and quality of data you have access to.
The key is to leverage the right kind of data in an ethically responsible way, which can prove to be much more challenging than it seems. The good news is that the responsible use of big data is possible and available to decision-makers in the public and private sectors that are looking to identify and understand the needs and pressing concerns of citizens to make better-informed decisions.
Here we’ll dive deeper into the challenges, opportunities, and ways that big data can be leveraged by leaders and decision-makers.
The challenges of big data
For as useful as data can be for leaders at every stage of the decision-making process, there are two major challenges with big data:
1) The volume of data is overwhelming
If there was ever an era that is crippled by too much information, it’s the one we live in now.
Just think: 90% of the world’s data has been generated in the last few years alone, 80% of which is unstructured. Findings show that humanity generates more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day, a figure that was reported in 2017 and — knowing that data generation has only grown exponentially year-over-year — one that has undoubtedly increased significantly to date.
For decision-makers looking to improve citizens’ lives and address their needs, this is a huge problem. Given that this data is unstructured — heterogeneous, expressed in different languages, from a milieu or sources — extracting insights from human-generated information becomes an extremely difficult task.
In order to understand what matters to people, governments and multilaterals organizations need solutions that automatically collect, analyze, and interpret data into real, actionable insights.
“The problem right now is that we live in an era of data explosion…humans need technology — we need algorithms — that allow us to translate this unstructured data into visualizations and things that allow decision-makers to improve people’s lives.”
Darío García de Viedma, Citibeats’ Product Manager
2) Not all data is “good” data
Just because a decision is based on data doesn’t mean it’s correct. While the data might show a particular pattern or suggest a certain outcome, if the data collection process or interpretation is flawed, then any decision based on the data will be inaccurate.
In what ways can big data be flawed?
- The quality of the data is compromised
When we talk about social data that reflects people’s opinions and concerns, the main sources of this information are online platforms — like social media channels and forums — which aren’t always reliable in terms of validity. Fake news, bots, and inaccurate information still run rampant on the Internet and compromise the quality of data and, thus, the findings they generate.
Online racism and hate speech also do their part to affect the quality of data out there. We see racism thrive on social media, from covert tactics like the use of fake identities to incite racist hatred, to the prevalence of hate speech on Reddit global forums and xenophobia in Latin America.
- The data isn’t inclusive or representative
Many factors can affect how representative data is of the general population — from inherent gender bias that exists online to reduced access citizens of lower economic status have to technology. When not all voices are captured, the insights used to inform decisions will intrinsically lack inclusivity.
Ways to overcome the challenges of big data
It’s because of these challenges that Citibeats exists. As an AI-powered ethical data platform, Citibeats’ goal is to empower leaders and organizations with inclusive, non-bias, real-time data they need to act quickly and justly in fast-changing social environments.
The Citibeats platform ensures high-quality data in the following ways:
- Introduces transparency to the data landscape and data-collection process
Citibeats’ latest feature, the Transparency Page, is a holistic framework that has been integrated into the Citibeats dashboard that allows clients to have access to the traceability of the data, the accuracy of the attribution, and, ultimately, the veracity of the insights.
- Shifts the focus from social listening to social understanding
This is an important differentiation because social listening tools are, by design, motivated by brands that analyze opinions via social media channels with a commercial goal of optimizing digital marketing strategies. Social understanding platforms like Citibeats, however, are people-oriented and geared toward interpreting real-time social changes, conversations, and public opinions with the goal of positively impacting society.
- Calibrates for gender bias in online data
Because online platforms are often not representative of the gender distribution in the general population, Citibeats uses state-of-the-art technical approaches to infer gender from online discussions as a means of calibrating and reducing gender bias.
- Ensures that the data is representative and inclusive
The platform is language-agnostic and culturally adaptable which allows leaders to extract actionable insights from data collected by citizens that’s inclusive of all dialects, genders, economic status and educational levels, thereby giving voices to people that may otherwise remain unheard.
How high-quality big data informs better decision-making
The first step is to ensure that the data itself is high quality — meaning that it is representative, inclusive, timely, and transparent in its collection process. Once this is established, this is how big data processed by the Citibeats platform can help decision-makers achieve their goals:
1. Makes insights actionable
In order for subject-matter experts to make decisions based on data, the data needs to be actionable. And in order for the insights to be actionable, they must first be understandable.
By converting unstructured data into structured data, AI technology is able to analyse, compare and quantify big quantities of information. Grouping the data in topics, intentionalities, demographics, etc. allows Citibeats to extract meaningful information from the data and perform quantitative analysis. Then, the summary of the quantitative findings allows for the extraction of qualitative information which leads to informed decision-making.2. Facilitates the information-sharing process to coordinate action
It’s important to have a reliable source in which information can be packaged as stories that can be told and shared, based on rigorous data.
This storytelling needs to be:
- Easy to process in order to create a comprehensive story, from the moment in which you find an insight to being able to explain it to others.
- Easily shareable while respecting the privacy of every stakeholder.
- True and accurate, with a guarantee that the insights shown in a given story are traceable to the source to prevent manipulation by a middleman or the creation of fake information.
- Personalizable, allowing experts to tell the story in a personalized way by giving them the ability to add annotations to the charts and upload images.
3. Surfaces immediate needs based on real-time data
To minimize the effects of a social crisis, it’s extremely valuable to analyse real-time information, as in those cases methods like traditional surveys don’t deliver the timely insights that are needed to make the biggest impact. With Citibeats’ real-time capability, users can rely on the platform as an early warning system and analyse emerging trends and micro-narratives from citizens.
By leveraging advanced technology to guide decisions, decision-makers are much better equipped to ensure that their actions and policies will best deliver on the types of change that the people need. The key is to have the right tools to ensure that actions are guided from high-quality data that allows for the highest levels of collaboration and inclusivity.
Citibeats leverages ethical AI for social understanding. Gathering and analyzing unstructured data from social media comments, blog posts, forums, and more, our Sustainability and Social Risk Monitors provide insight into millions of unfolding conversations regarding inflation, protests, food shortages, and more—empowering world leaders to develop data-driven strategies and inclusive policies.
Schedule a demo today to learn more.