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Talking about Big Data at WTIS 2013

I recently participated in a panel on “Big data in the telecommunications industry” at the 11th World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium (WTIS) held in Mexico from 4-6 December 2013.

Going by the feedback from the Q&A session, two aspects rose to the front:

  • Firstly the issue of “privacy” is on everybody’s mind going by the number of questions that came from the audience. Everybody seems to have his or her own viewpoint. UN Global Pulse, whilst acknowledging there are valid concerns that must be addressed (and they have a set of privacy guidelines for their own work) clearly doesn’t want the concerns to derail the efforts to utilize telecom network big data for social good. Telefonica, as an operator, was quick to point his or her own set of privacy guidelines that inform their big data work. However what is clear to me is that there is still a lot of ambiguity in the privacy discourse. To me the current discourse doesn’t fully appreciate that we as individuals/ consumers don’t always know what we want nor do we have well articulated boundaries.  Clearly there is much work to be done in this area, especially in lieu of the fact that the notice and consent doesn’t really work in the Big Data space.
  • The second aspect was the role of National Statistical Organizations (NSOs). Audience and panelist comments spoke to the benefits of NSOs being able to leverage such data sources. What is not clear to me is to what extent are NSOs willing to change their thinking and processes to be able to accommodate big data. Nor is it clear how NSOs who engaged with telecom big data, could ensure continued access to these private data sets.

My slides are available HERE.

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