UN sees Great Potential in User-Generated Data to Help Combat Issues in Developing World

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With every tweet, Facebook update, or web search, geospatial data are being generated from technological devices underpinned by the Global

A telecommunication satellite receiver. Image credit: wiangya / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

A telecommunication satellite receiver. Image credit: wiangya / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Navigation Satellite System (GNSS).åÊ As access to mobile technology expands across the globe, the amount of user-generated data will expand with it. A report by the United Nations Initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) looks ahead over the next five to 10 years at how to effectively use this ever-growing amount of dataåÊ (approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes created every day) to improve the lives of people all over the world.

As it stands, we are currently generating more information than we know what to do with. But if properly analyzed, this information could have an enormous impact on a variety of issues. The report stresses the importance of developing and maintaining a geospatial infrastructure base, especially as the UN estimates that, by 2015, more than 100 GNSS satellites will be in orbit. It warns that countries that could most benefit from this information, like those battling famine and disease, may be most resistant to developing this costly infrastructure.

However, the potential benefits to society are too great to be ignored. Currently, countries are using this data to improve the management of infrastructure. Egypt has used geospatial data to increase the efficiency of tax collection, and Brazil has used it to fight crime. These are just a few examples of the possible uses of such data.

Similarly, there also is the possibility of a so-called ‰digital divide‰Û developing as the technologies for processing this massive amount of data may not be equally accessible across the globe. Furthermore, the report outlines that as this data may be so vital to the improvement of developing nations, it is pertinent that they have access to it. The report highlights technologies such as cloud computing and open-source solutions as ways to help bridge this gap by allowing developing countries to share data hosting without the costly infrastructure that is normally needed.