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We have taken rather long time to get used to and comfortable with the data. It is not that we were not collecting data, we had been doing it since long, however, we did not know what to do with it, or how to use it. In many cases, the concerned people did not want to use data collected digitally. Few glaring examples will show our deliberate aversion to use of data.
Safe city project was launched several years ago, and cameras were installed at strategic spots in major cities. Many a times, videos of armed robberies, bike/car thefts, and other crimes, somehow reach social media and are shared widely. The faces of criminals can be clearly seen, and the evidence is undeniable. However, the police cannot apprehend the criminals, or get them prosecuted. Either the police collude with them or does not know how to use this data. Incidentally, the law enforcement agencies became highly expert in using data for arresting ‘culprits’ after 9th May incidence. This further reinforces the suspicion that the use of data is not done intentionally.
Motorway police is collecting data every day about over speeding drivers, and about other violators. There is no analysis of this data. We know from experience that some people always violate speed limit and don’t mind paying fine. If such habitual people are warned as soon as they start on the motorway, it could make a difference. Similarly, no number of traffic violation challans affect the driving license status. It is either incompetence, or deliberate avoidance.
Former Chairman NADRA, Tariq Malik claimed that FBR could use NADRA data to identify tax evaders and expand the tax net, but FBR is not interested. FBR is among those institutions who probably collect more money in bribes for the whole chain going to the top, compared to what they collect for the government. If the amount forcibly collected at source from salaried people is subtracted, this would be certainly the situation.
It is not just limited to the government departments, even the private corporations are not using data which is more out of sheer incompetence and ignorance about the benefits it can bring.
Having said that, data has become a mandatory and powerful tool to drive innovation, informed decision making, and improved efficiency. At the same time, there are valid concerns which are raised with the rising prevalence and power of data. This leads to the question, if data is the panacea and the blessing it is touted to be, or does it possess a darker side as a bane?
Blessings of Data
Data empowers individuals, organizations, and governments to make well-informed decisions. From businesses optimizing supply chains to doctors tailoring treatments based on patient records, data-backed insights drive efficiency and effectiveness.
Innovation and Research
Data fuels innovation across industries. Researchers analyze large datasets to identify patterns, develop new technologies, and solve complex challenges, ranging from climate change to healthcare breakthroughs.
Personalization and Customization
Data enables personalized experiences, from tailored product recommendations to curated content. This enhances user satisfaction and engagement, contributing to better customer relationships.
Businesses leverage data to predict market trends, consumer behavior, and potential risks. This allows proactive strategies and risk mitigation, boosting competitiveness and resilience.
Public Services Enhancement
Governments can use data to improve public services like transportation, healthcare, and urban planning. Smart city initiatives harness data to optimize resource allocation and citizen services.
Efficient Resource Allocation
Data-driven insights aid in optimizing resource allocation, reducing waste, and enhancing sustainability. For instance, precision agriculture uses data to manage crops and resources effectively.
Communication and Connectivity
Data facilitates global communication and connectivity. Social media platforms, for instance, enable individuals to connect, share experiences, and voice opinions across borders.
Banes of Data
The extensive collection and sharing of personal data raise serious privacy concerns. Unauthorized access, data breaches, and surveillance threaten individual privacy and autonomy.
Data can be exploited for malicious purposes, including identity theft, fraud, and cyberattacks. Stolen data is sold on the dark web, leading to financial loss and reputational damage.
The unequal access to and understanding of data exacerbate the digital divide. Marginalized communities and individuals without digital literacy are left behind in the data-driven age.
Data-driven algorithms can perpetuate biases present in historical data, leading to unfair and discriminatory outcomes. This affects areas like hiring, lending, and criminal justice.
The use of data in areas such as AI and genetic research raises ethical questions about consent, ownership, and the potential for unintended consequences.
The deluge of data can overwhelm individuals and organizations. The challenge lies in separating meaningful insights from noise and avoiding decision paralysis.
Loss of Human Interaction
Overreliance on digital communication and social media can lead to reduced face-to-face interactions, impacting social skills and mental well-being.
What to Do to Achieve Balance?
Achieving a balance between the blessings and banes of data requires proactive measures and a comprehensive approach:
Governments and organizations need robust data protection regulations that safeguard privacy, ensure transparency, and hold entities accountable for data misuse.
Developers must design algorithms that identify and rectify biases, ensuring fair and just outcomes. Ethical AI frameworks should guide the development and deployment of technologies.
Promoting digital literacy equips individuals with the knowledge to navigate the digital landscape safely, can help protect themselves from threats and misinformation.
Organizations must obtain explicit consent for data collection and usage. Transparent policies ensure that individuals are aware of how their data is being used.
Implementing robust cybersecurity measures, encryption, and multi-factor authentication safeguards data from breaches and unauthorized access. Cybercrimes handling is related to this part. FIA in Pakistan has created a cybercrime wing which has not done any worthwhile work so far.
Educating individuals about online privacy practices empowers them to take control of their personal information and make informed choices.
Organizations should adopt ethical data handling practices that prioritize security, privacy, and responsible data usage.
Data is undeniably a double-edged sword, offering immense benefits alongside substantial risks. Whether data is a blessing, or a bane depends on how it is collected, managed, and utilized. The key lies in responsible data governance, ethical considerations, and a collective effort to strike a balance between harnessing data’s potential and mitigating its negative impacts.
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