Data-driven decision-making has increasingly gained more value over the past years, primarily because of the proliferation of ICT-based technologies and services, which has made it convenient to collect large and diverse sets of data.
With emphasis on reducing the digital divide, many national level strategies have a common component of making internet connectivity ubiquitous and affordable, while also developing digital literacy and skills, to ensure equitable digital inclusion. Such kinds of strategies, commonly known as digital strategies, highlight the importance of adopting open data frameworks, data-driven policymaking and governance. Digital strategies aim to bring about a sustainable and effective digital transformation at a regional or national level to rake maximum benefits from the burgeoning digital economy.
Digital transformation makes way for digitisation and increases reliance on ICT infrastructure and ICT-enabled services. Therefore, with an increase in digitisation, growth of global devices (smartphones, laptops, tablets, smart TV’s etc) and connections, and increase in broadband speeds, the volume of data generated per unit time has gone up exponentially. Hence is termed as big data. From the year 1992, the global internet traffic shot up from 100 gigabytes (GB) per day to 26,600 GB per second in the year 2016, which is a staggering increase. It is estimated that data usage may surge to 105,800 GB per second by 2021.
Various trends point out that generation of such huge volumes of data will continue. With a focus on the smart-city concept, where critical infrastructures are expected to be made more efficient and smarter through the use of ICT and the internet of things (IoT) will play a major role, the resultant data surge is going to be even more pronounced. It is expected that by 2022, approximately 18 to 20 billion IoT devices will be deployed worldwide, out of which 70 percent of the wide area IoT devices will use cellular technology.
Furthermore, the fourth industrial revolution, commonly known as Industry 4.0, will also increasingly rely on IoT, artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, and cloud computing etc paving the way for increased automation, efficiency and reliability. To quantify the role of data in the realm of social and economic development, it has become increasingly important to collect data about the indicators which relate to monitoring the progress of the initiatives targeted to meet the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
The SDGs are subdivided into 169 targets and 232 indicators for the period 2016-2030, and their monitoring is more complex compared to the millennium development goals (MDGs), which had 21 targets and 60 indicators for the period of 2000-2015. The IoT and big data analytics have been proposed as an effective solution to monitor many indicators of the SDGs. Through the IoT devices, data from various sectors can be captured, processed and reported for decision-making in an autonomous manner. In many developing countries including Pakistan, the implementation of the SDGs has been impeded by lack of available data.
As technological dynamics and availability of big data is changing, it is about time that we evolved our thought process about how we perceive data, its availability and its extremely underrated importance. Timely availability of verified data in a systematic and sustained manner from various sectors such as health, education, environment, energy and power, transport, economy etc, can enable better policy-making, assist in better planning and help us take more informed data-driven decisions. The use of ICT-based platforms and tools can provide us with many possibilities to devise a systematic mechanism for data collection in a coherent and convenient manner.
At the outset, open data framework-based models already exist which can be customised and readily adopted to make pertinent data available for the public and businesses. Subsequently, a workable digital governance interoperability framework needs to be developed through which collection of data becomes convenient and sustainable by using ICT-based tools and services.
Such measures are certainly going to make an impact on the efficacy of our decision-making, improve transparency and increase the operational efficiency of government departments and agencies.