Calls to build infrastructures and analytics capacity to utilise Big Data for public good

By The Inspirer

Though big data play a key role in countries’ development, we all have to always remember that some dimensions of big data are sensitive, Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente has said.

Big data refer to data that has high volume, velocity and variety, and can be analysed through technology-based calculation such as computation to establish hidden patterns, trends, correlations and other insights, like those relating to human behaviour and interactions.

UN Statistical Commission’s Zachary Mwangi Chege said that such data include that available through the mobile phones, scanning – scanner data –, and data that is available through the satellite imageries, all these are opportunities for the data in the statistical community to harness.

Scanner data refers to detailed data on sales of consumer goods obtained by ‘scanning’ the bar codes for individual products at electronic points of sale in retail outlets.

“Their misuse may harm individuals, institutions, and even national development, PM Ngirente told participants from all over the world who gathered in Kigali to attend the 5th International Conference on Big Data for Official Statistics held in Rwanda this month.

About 300 delegates including technicians in statistics, academia and policymakers are participating in the conference which officially opened in Kigali on Thursday, May 02 and concluded on May 3, 2019.

“I therefore call upon all National Statistical Systems to invest in strengthening legal and policy frameworks that ease data sharing while building strong standards for data ethics and protection, to expand data access and ensure appropriate use,” Ngirente said.

UN Statistical Commission’s Zachary Mwangi Chege said that the UN Global Working Group on Big Data for sustainable development has task teams that deal with specific issues.

He indicated that the issue of privacy and confidentiality of data for is also being addressed to ensure that there is no compromise or misuse of information.

“Before we engage, say, mobile phone data, we engage with the regulators for us to access the data. The issues of privacy, the issues of confidentiality are taken into account and there are techniques even of anonymising data such that it doesn’t identify that it is you, it doesn’t attribute data to a particular individual,” he said.

He added data use is guided by the UN fundamental principles of official statistics, one of which is to ensure confidentiality such that if I collect data, I cannot use it for any purposes apart from any other purposes.”

UIsing Bid data effectively

Meanwhile, the Premier observed that there is a growing demand for more details and timely information to enable evidence-based policy and decision-making.

“Therefore, we are convinced that Big Data holds significant potential to unlock the challenges to more detailed and timely data and statistics for decision making,” he said.

Currently, he said, it is possible that the ever-increasing use of ICT, and the big data it creates, can enrich the supply of official statistics.

“Therefore, it is now the right moment for all of us, policymakers, private sector, civil society, statistics offices, international organisations, academicians and others, to work together and leverage these big data sources to expand access to information and promote public good,” he remarked.

However, the PM said, it has to be noted that the management of big data – characterised by its volume and variety – requires appropriate technology and skills.

“We are therefore called to invest in necessary infrastructure and capacity building initiatives that will allow statistics offices and other stakeholders to benefit from the growing supply of big data,” he stated.

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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,( is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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