In Data We Trust? The Power of Data for Good

25 Jun 2019

Swimming in Data

It's 1999, the sci-fi film The Matrix is launched on an unsuspecting public. It features a slick Keanu Reeves and never seen before, 'bullet time' visual effects. The film presents a dystopia. Underlying the machines that have apparently enslaved us is an ever present, eerie green code.

Ominously, the code intermittently rains down across the screen. It's data and it's unrelenting. We are presented with an unreal world where rules are bent, nothing is true, and little is real.

“It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.”

― Alice in Wonderland

We know data holds tremendous power. We've never had so much available to us. In the hands of data scientists it reveals solutions to problems, some of which we've not yet even encountered but which become clear as the new information or big data is filtered through and organised. Solutions and products can be found and suggested that were previously not possible to realise.

 

The 'lady with the lamp', the unsinkable ship, and the Swedish emergency services

1853: Data Gathering and Representation 

Florence Nightingale is famous as the woman who, during the Crimean war, worked tirelessly to help fallen soldiers. She was the definition of the dedicated, hardworking and compassionate nurse. She was also so much more. She collected, crunched and displayed stats in a way that hadn't been done before and, in doing so, she revolutionized hospital care.

Collecting data from diseases, wounds and deaths Nightingale's revealed that the majority of those who died did not die from wounds but instead from diseases as a result of their terrible living conditions.

After the war Nightingale traveled Europe she visited almost every hospital, analyzed them and then wrote up her findings in “Notes on Hospitals”. The factual data collected in her report became a blueprint for hospitals over the next century.

Those who have been saved, have been saved through one man, Mr Marconi... and his marvellous invention.

– Herbert Samuel, Postmaster General

1912: Delivering Clarity in Confusion 

In the confusion that swirled around RMS Titanic's final moments wireless officer, Jack Phillips, sent out the new SOS morse code signal. Ships nearby heard the call and came to the ocean liner's aid. As a result, 706 lives were ultimately saved.

The wireless telegraph was one of the most wonderful inventions of the bold new age. The data transmission that was being made possible through this latest communication technology was revolutionary.

 

2018: Confusion reigns? 

Today, the convenience of the mobile phone presents unique problems.

A major issue for emergency services is incident location. In the past locations were easily pin-pointed as telephones were fixed to a landline, this made things a lot easier.

However, although your mobile phone has a billing address, it is quite possible that the phone will not be anywhere near that address when an incident takes place. In addition to the issue of locating the incident via the phone itself, the phone’s operator is also likely to be under stress, and therefore able to give potentially wrong information. As a result, you have a recipe for confusion or at least a lost emergency responder.

 

112 — Bisnode Data, Bringing more to the number

The power of smart data effectively means that now we can now actively locate a mobile call in the case of an emergency wherever it may be. Additionally, when a crisis occurs, emergency voice messages or texts, can be sent specifically to the phones surrounding any disaster zone or emergency hotspot.

 

2019 — Are you a Dataist? Do you believe in Data? 

However much you believe blindly in the data, whether you’re a convert to ‘Dataism’ and all it stands for is down to you. However, the opportunity to investigate and analyze the data you have, and the ability to reach solutions and products as a result of this, is a worthwhile journey to make.

 

Direct access to right data

Today, 170 municipalities in Sweden use Bisnode to obtain correct legal information about people and companies. In Södertälje the result was SEK 47 million savings in tax in the first year of implementation.

Quick access to the right data gave Södertälje municipality the opportunity to focus on clients and give them faster and more accurate information about the possibility of financial assistance. The department's resources are now used more efficiently, and the clients' relevant personal data is available to the social secretaries who need them.

 

We are living in the age of data. It is clear that managing it, understanding it and channeling it for good will be the defining issues of the age.