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Earlier this month saw the release of A world that counts, a report by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon’s Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development. In this audio interview, we talk to advisory group member Robert Kirkpatrick, director of Global Pulse, a UN initiative focusing on big data for development, about the report and the challenges ahead.
Kirkpatrick explains that big data’s potential cannot be fully realised because the world still lacks international standards on how to use data in an ethical way and protect privacy. Without this, people’s private information or sensitive details about businesses could be disclosed without permission. But if this hurdle can be overcome, public and private sector data can bring benefits and allow new types of analysis. For example, says Kirkpatrick, anonymised data could be used to find out when a community is at risk — such as when there is a rise in unemployment or illness — thus enabling action to be taken.

Link to A world that counts