As big data and analytics tools become more prevalent and easier for people of all walks of life to access, the consumerization of data is opening up untold possibilities for quality-of-life improvements in different corners of the globe.
When leveraged effectively, big data is meant to inform us and help us ask the questions that will lead to a change in the way we think about the world.
Big data analytics tools enable us to crunch massive amounts of information, analyze it in real time, and explore connections in the data to look for patterns and draw conclusions so we can make the best decisions about how to solve real-life problems.
To illustrate how we can use big data and analytics for the greater good, Spotfire is launching a new “Life Is Data” series that will explore how the analysis of big data is enabling us to ask more useful and stronger questions to better understand and improve our world.
This is the first post in our new series:
The world produces enough food to feed the 7 billion people who live on our planet, according to the World Food Programme. Yet despite the resources available, there are approximately 842 million undernourished people in the world.
In other words, one out of eight people doesn’t eat enough to lead a healthy, active life.
There are numerous causes for hunger as well as opportunities to use data to address hunger on both a global and regional basis.
In many instances, poverty prevents people from being able to provide nutritious food for themselves and their families. In the US alone, 16% of Americans in 2012 lived in poverty, according to research conducted by Columbia University.
Unfortunately, hunger and poverty are interwoven in a vicious cycle.
Malnutrition can cause myriad health problems. It can stunt a person’s development and affect his ability to improve his income status, which means he can’t properly feed himself or his family. And that means he can’t break free from the cycle of hunger and poverty.
However, government officials and other leaders can exploit data to better understand the obstacles that are preventing progress on the poverty front. They can also use data to develop educational, agricultural production, and community-driven development plans to fight poverty and hunger.
Regional hunger is also fueled by obstacles that impede agricultural development. And there are rich opportunities to leverage data and overcome the obstacles (and act on opportunities) for agricultural development in sub-Saharan Africa (generally south of the Congo), which has vast reserves of land and water that can be exploited.
We can use data to identify and act on the key inhibitors to agricultural development. In Africa, these obstacles include erratic policies toward agricultural output and trade along with poor infrastructure and high transportation costs.
Additionally, we can use data to help identify and mitigate risk associated with climate, weather, and natural disasters.
For instance, during the African drought of 2011, pre-positioned food supplies in Ethiopia helped authorities respond quickly once drought conditions became severe, according to the World Resources Institute.
Sadly, up to half of all food in European Union households goes to waste while 79 million EU residents live below the poverty line and 16 million residents depend on food from charitable organizations, according to the European Economic and Social Committee.
Here, authorities can use data to identify food waste reduction practices along with opportunities for using or creating food distribution supply chains for the needy.