What kind of data are we NOT collecting?

I came across this video about the use of big data in the healthcare industry. In particular, solving the global health problems in developing countries through the use of big data. In the lecture, we talked about big data and analytics; how we can predict the consumer’s behaviour, how we can predict if someone’s daughter is pregnant, etc. However-as I watched this video-I felt that we’re not able to use this technology to save lives.

Key points on the data issue in developing countries

  • For doctors and volunteers who deals with global health problems, their issue is not about which data is relevant to them –> They usually know which data they need, e.g. (How many children in the rural area of Indonesia need vaccination? How many children are born in Zambia?)
  • Their issue is that within the large amount of data, none of them helps them to save lives.
  • What do I mean by that? When these data are being collected (data on those two previously mentioned questions), you have to go and visit each individual household, ask them the question, and then the  answers are recorded on paper.
  • This “physical data” includes thousands and thousands of paperwork to be input into a computer system and can lead to poor data quality (inaccurate recording while inputting the data in a computer system) and most importantly, they might not make it to the computer system (Going to each household in every single developing country is way too much or lack of manpower).

Essentially, global health organizations does not have accurate data to base their solutions on, for instance, they don’t know how many children needs a vaccine in Indonesia. Which led to the development of http://www.Magpi.com. Mr. Selanikio created Magpi.com to encourage data collection in developing countries. Users can create forms (see image 1) with questions such as “How many people are ill in your village? and this can be sent via SMS and another user can reply via SMS, “10 people” and this data will be stored in the Magpi.com server. An example of an organization using this website is World Health Organization.


Image 1

Kuni’s corner

Upon reflecting on this video, I thought about the different use of big data. Magpi.com is great for individuals who either knows how to use a SMS or someone who has internet connection with a laptop. But what if that’s not the case? It is an enormous advantage for businesses to predict consumer’s purchasing pattern via big data analytics, but what good is big data analytics without an internet infrastructures? What good is big data without a proper data collection method? In the debate of “treatment for a cause or a symptom”, for this example, more emphasis should be on treatment for the cause.

First, provide an internet infrastructure in developing countries and then, individuals can start making the use of technology such as magpi.com. There are IT solutions which saves lives such as crisis mapping or predicting patient outcome, but they are meaningless without the individual’s ability to access the internet.


Cerner Implements a Cloudera Enterprise Data Hub to Transform the Healthcare System and Help Save Lives. (2015). [online] Available at: http://www.cloudera.com/content/cloudera/en/about/press-center/press-releases/2015/02/12/cerner-implements-cloudera-edh.html [Accessed 23 Sep. 2015].

Magpi, (2015). Mobile Data Collection – Mobile Forms | Magpi. [online] Available at: http://home.magpi.com/ [Accessed 23 Sep. 2015].

TED, (2013). Joel Selanikio: The surprising seeds of a big-data revolution in healthcare.Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mb8x6vLcggc [Accessed 23 Sep. 2015].

Wikipedia, (2015). Ushahidi. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ushahidi [Accessed 23 Sep. 2015].

Kunitake Nakajima – 366667kn


2 responses to “What kind of data are we NOT collecting?”

  1. J.A.W. says :

    A disagreement may arise about the meaning of ‘helping’ development countries. Is it really the internet which brings development and prosperity or do we have to look for other areas like water pumps or providing health care?

    Although internet can facilitate development, I think it is to much emphasized. Let’s start with the ‘traditional’ ways and combine it with smart technological solutions!

  2. deikem says :

    While I totally agree with the fact that rural areas do need access to the Internet and an Infrastructure that gives them the opportunity to be part of the developed world, educate themselves and eventually collect critical data, I remember learning that implementing a good It System on a bad supply chain does more harm then good within a company. Most effective -for a company and the overall profit it makes as an indicator- would be improving the supply chain and eventually improving the It System. As far as this can be applied to a whole country I am not sure, especially seeing that success was measured in monetary Profit. But, if we were to follow this concept, evidently the Process of data collection in these regions is/was far from efficient and good, as data was collected for years, sometimes without any outcome at all. So giving each individual a superior information system without processes in place to maintain it might prove critical. What do you think?

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