Big data prospects and challenges for Pakistan

Using Big Data and analytics is probably one of best governance tools available at present, particularly for resource-constrained countries like Pakistan

Big data prospects and challenges for Pakistan

By Jamal Abdul Nasir

Big Data is the term used for representing immense amount of data sets containing huge, much diverse, having both structured and unstructured data that is so huge and problematic to process by using customary techniques and software methods, and have problems of storage, analyzing, evaluating and envisioning for more processes or results, The most prominent attributes of BigData are referred as 3 Vs i.e. Volume (Amount of Data), Variety (Type or format of Data) and Velocity (Speed or Rate of Data Processing or Generation). 

Computers and the Internet certainly aid bigdata by lowering the cost of collecting, storing, processing, and sharing information. But at its heart, bigdata is only the latest step in humanity’s quest to understand and quantify the world.

Over the years new technologies have pave the way for what experts say ‘datafication’. This includes rendering of data in new aspects such as datafication of land using GPS, friendships, likes and sentiments are also being data fied via social networking platforms. Technological advancements has made it possible to collect all data instead of previous practice of collecting samples. Store this data irrespective of its amount and process huge data swiftly. 

Pakistan is the fifth largest populated country with population of over 2200 million people. The literacy rate of country is 60%. Over the years country has witnessed enormous digitalization. There are 173.2 million mobile connections in the country which is 77.7% of the total population.

These mobile holders are producing diverse and large amount of data including pictures, videos, different transactions including online shopping, vesting internet sites, using social networking platforms etc.

Pakistan has some robust and state of the art database solutions like NADRA database , which played significant role for national immunization program besides swift issuance of CNICs and IT based solutions. The safe city project is another example which is producing enormous amount of data.

Although Pakistan has large IT market which hasenormously contributed in national exchequer. However Pakistan’s journey for bigdata started bit late. Lack of understanding by different stakeholders including academia and industry and absence of government patronage impacted country’s contribution in bigdata domain. World is visioning big data as a progressive and leading domain.

According to a report of Markets and Markets, the global BigData market size will grow from $138.9 billion in 2020 to $229.4 billion by 2025 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.6%.

Countries are using bigdata for improving governance and easing government –public interaction, poverty reduction climate change, law enforcement, health care, tourism, agriculture etc.

Using BigData and analytics is probably one of the best governance tools available at present, particularly for resource-constrained countries like Pakistan. Having data available of population, resources and previous challenges, the government can design policies for poverty reduction, countering climate change threats, improving health care standards and boost in tourism sector.

Despite late entry to the bigdata domain Pakistan is endeavoring to harness benefits of bigdata. The country has embarked upon smart city projects. The work has already begun in Islamabad and Lahore.

Data such as vehicles entry / exit, face recognition through cameras etc. is being collected. This data is useful for predictive analysis and decision making as subsystems such as smart traffic management system, predictive law enforcement system etc. are being implemented.

These systems are based on cutting edge technologies of AI, Bigdata and machine learning. During covid-19 pandemic the bigdata and AI solutions helped profoundly to counter challenges emanating from novel pandemic.

The government through NCOC chalked out plan to counter COVID-19. NADRA exiting database and bigdata analytics proved helpful to find out hotspots and placing calibrated response and locking down only affected areas instead of en-mass closure. Big datais also helpful for fin-tech startups for inclusion financing.

Bigdata has numerous benefits. But it is fact that data collection on every individual will leverage certain organizations (public or private) to peep into privacy tantamount to abuse of human rights. Moreover governance of bigdata remains a challenge. Recent hacking incident of FBR site reminds us to fill gaps and ensure security and integrity of collected data.

Originally published at The nation