Batapa-Sigue: The power of data

Disruptive Mode

INTELLIGENT cities are founded in intelligent data. And definitely so is nation. We do not want the opposite word for intelligent to describe our cities. The Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0 goes beyond automation, which already occurred in the Third Industrial Revolution. But much ado is given to automation when the real spirit of this era is data.

Data are feed to machines to make them intelligent, useful, interoperable, and transform to real life solutions. We bred workers adept in automation for many years now, but not in handling and making sense of big data. That is one of our biggest challenge today as a country - the dearth of intelligent, aggregated, relevant and accessible data. Unfortunately, this problem created more problems - worst in the list is the propagation of wrong, senseless, and obsolete data as hard news.

We need to shift our thinking about data and embrace that fact that the existence of intelligent data systems is crucial to our economic growth.

Each one of us is responsible for our own data. Every day on a regular basis every human being generate data in different platforms. We fill out forms for various purposes such as when we apply for business license, enroll in the school, enter a particular country, register for an event, enlist for a project or program or even sample a product. Did we ever wonder where all this data go?

This data when collated can actually generate a lot of insights for people who make key decisions for us to understand what we need or to understand what needs to be done. Government for example is probably the biggest repository of data in this country from our birth records to our death records - they have it. Have we ever seen all these data being put to good use in developing policies and strategies to better our lives as citizens?

It was difficult for me to face investors but more difficult to gather data. We go from school to school, office to office to collect and request data - from number of colleges and universities, graduates and courses, number of training schools, trainees, even specific skills attached to the courses, to cost of power, water, and connectivity, to crime rate and crime solution efficiency, to cost of living, to Wi-Fi density, to available hotels, to cost of labor, to cost of services to even the number of graduates who watch international news, to the average age of Bacolodnons who can already surf the Internet.

Industry associations require or demand from us to fill up so many forms for us to share the data with them and then they sell the data to investors.

This country has to wake up. Our heads are all in the clouds. Our public, private and academic leaders choose to oftentimes be judgmental rather than collaborative, opinionated rather than open, suspicious in giving data rather than cooperative in achieving the goal.

The latest spectacle made by presidential spokesperson Sal Panelo accepting the so-called commute challenge caused quite a stir. I was entertaining but governance is not a reality show on TV. Aside from the challenge, it would be best to use big data to design intelligent and effective solutions and to analyse increase in density, mobility, economic activities in Metro Manila, number of vehicles, passengers, and volume pedestrians.

Aggregated empirical data gathered and analyzed would lead to better decision making and designing solutions than one man’s experience. Commuting to experience commute is also entirely different from commuting like our life depends on it - say for a father who needs to fetch his young kids from school, or a new employee trying her best to be punctual, or a tourist catching his flight, or an ambulance team trying to save a human life.

My dream is to see Bacolod become an intelligent city. And the Philippines become a country with intelligent data. Needless to say, data is power. And more so, data can do a lot of good.


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