Big Data Analytics for Inclusive Growth

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Big Data Analytics for Inclusive GrowthThe Global Information Technology Report 2015 focused on how technology has been playing an important part in not only stimulating economic growth but also offering the potential of adding measurable value to the “general human condition.”

Mikael Hagstrem, who headed up the team that developed the report, put it in so many words, “just having economic growth is not enough by itself. Growth should also add to the improvement of the quality of life as well as help to elevate all mankind.”

Technology should not just be promoting the industrial world and the more advanced nations. Indeed, much of the recent advances in technology have generally bypassed most of the nations in the Southern Global Hemisphere. But it’s not just quantitative numbers that have been jacked up in the Northern Hemisphere but also there have been many less obvious qualitative added-value to the lives of citizen’s in those Global Northern societies.

As a way to draw attention to the unequal impact technological advances have had, the report set out to gather qualitative and quantitative observations about how the impact of new technologies can and should be used to advance economic growth but also be applied to some specific areas to help raise the general planetary human conditions. Those three main areas are:

  • Education that allows people to participate in disruptive industries and expanding markets, particularly data-driven services, whereby entirely new skill sets will be the catalysts to redeploy traditional ones.
  • Jobs created by the free movement of goods, services, capital, data, and people, with all sectors of society able to add value to the economy.
  • Well-being, consisting of prosperity, good health, and longevity, in an environment of public health and safety, sound policy making, and prudent allocation of taxpayer resources for the public good without fraud, waste, or abuse.

While the impacts of technology on education and jobs creation have been the major topics of the general conversation the article, we focus on how general well-being can be given more attention within the context of big data and new technology.

The report mentions that when it comes to enhancing well-being, the opportunities are immense.

For example, the healthcare industry is only scratching the surface of the value that can be realized. Consider these staggering statistics:

  • US$1 trillion of estimated waste in the US healthcare system,
  • Nearly 80,000 preventable deaths a year, and another 1.5 million people injured by medications. Imagine what these numbers are in China, Pakistan, India, Nigeria and most of Africa and South America!
  • New analytics that can deliver just a 1 percent improvement in processes or procedures can make a huge difference in costs, care, and peoples’ lives.

Big data analytics and its almost instantaneous scalability has much to offer in advancing the practice of healthcare toward the triple goals of better health, better care experience, and lower costs.

Masses of genomic data, clinical trial data, electronic health records, claims data, research study data, and more—terabytes and petabytes of data—can be brought together to reveal important discoveries and support better operational and medical decisions in both private and public healthcare.

Income distribution and well- beingBig Data Analytics

Of course, well-being goes beyond personal health. Individuals may be healthy but belong to societies plagued by disease, corruption, or unrest. The developed nations of the Global North—North America, Europe, and East Asia—have one-quarter of the world’s population but control four-fifths of the world’s income. Conversely, the Global South—with three-quarters of the world’s population—has access to only one-fifth of the world’s income. Not surprisingly, people of the Global South suffer disproportionately from sickness and disease, social progress. We see those effects as more and more desperate people face death to immigrate to the North from south of the Equator. But at the root of the lack of benefits of technology for folks in the southern hemisphere are complicated. Indeed, the very same nations in the Global South that are on the short end of  the stick have cultures and societies that are built on class control, corruption, nepotism and a complete disregard for the social well-being of their populations. Technology and big data are politically and socially agnostic. The sad truth is that until the leaders of those cultures change their values and the way they think about their societies, nothing much can happen to change the situation.

Technology, natural disasters and social programs

With the power of big data’s predictive insights, local public-sector programs can ultimately make the concerns of the forgotten or underserved populations more visible and address concerns before they become an even larger threats to public health.


After Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines in 2013, analytics helped aid workers to prioritize assistance levels and supply distribution. The International Organization for Migration incorporated social media data with geographic and real-time data to better understand the unique needs of each region hit by the typhoon. As a result, they could pinpoint what locations were hardest hit and what supplies were needed most, learning, for example, that hospitals in the badly damaged coastal city of Guiuan were running out of diesel for their backup generators. Big data analytics made relief efforts more accurate and responsive, which in turn made the country more resilient in recovering from the disaster, reduced suffering, and saved numerous lives.

Fraud and Security

Big data analytics allows us to proactively identify the conditions that promote fraud, risk, and security breaches. If social programs that promote well-being are to be adequately funded, stopping leakage caused by fraud and waste is essential.


One very expensive problem is carousel fraud, which is the theft of value-added tax (VAT) by a network of criminals in which fraudsters import goods VAT-free and sell the goods to domestic buyers while charging them VAT. The sellers then disappear without paying the VAT to the government. Belgium is fighting this type of fraud through its Special Tax Inspectorate with an advanced analytics tool that identifies at-risk companies and extracts relevant data from the unwieldy cluster of data gleaned from community transactions, company data, social media data, and so on.

Hybrid detection has allowed Belgium to use multiple complex modeling techniques to practically eradicate this VAT fraud. Belgium’s VAT losses came to €1.1 billion in 2002, but by 2012 the country had reduced that figure by 98 percent and continues to use hybrid detection techniques to save billions of euros. This money can now be put to good use, such as driving inclusive growth, instead of being lost to fraud.


As Mr. Hagstrem wrote in his concluding remarks, “big data can be used to prevent and to create. One is about stopping the undesirable from happening—in this case, people falling through the cracks of society. The other is about fulfilling desires—by providing prosperity for all.”

Achieving inclusive growth will require both. Big data analytics will eventually level the global playing field and create the environment that allows the three prerequisites for inclusive growth—education, jobs, and well-being—to flourish.

At the very least, there is certainly no longer a technology excuse to let any group get left behind. But alas, it will be the rise in human empathy translated to political action that will finally open the gates and let the effects of technology help to raise all boats in a new quest for inclusion in the advancement of our species.

The power to analyze huge amounts of data means everyone can be taken into account and everyone can add value and be included.


Additional Reading

About Using Big Data: The Three Core Dependencies You Can’t Live Without

Reducing Big Energy Cost for Big Data


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