Wednesday May 17 was the United Nations World Telecommunication and Information Society Day with this year’s theme being, “Big data for big impact”. The UN in a statement says the theme focuses on the power of Big Data for development and aims to explore how to turn imperfect, complex, often unstructured data into actionable information in a development context.
According to the UN, the insight brought on by advanced analysis can strongly complement the evidence-based nature of decision-making that can be leveraged at national, regional and international levels to drive success towards attaining the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The 2017 theme is in line with the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) work highlighting the technological developments that have facilitated the emergence of Big Data, developing standards related to Big Data and identifying sources and uses of Big Data. These include the use of Big Data technologies for developing and monitoring improvements in information societies, the UN says.
The UN believes activities undertaken by the ITU membership will contribute towards building political momentum to embrace Big Data and leverage insights to identify new opportunities to creatively address sustainable development challenges.
IT experts say Big Data is a term for data sets that are so large or complex that traditional data-processing application software is inadequate to deal with them. Challenges include capture, storage, analysis, data curation, search, sharing, transfer, visualization, querying, updating and information privacy. The term “Big Data” often refers simply to the use of predictive analytics, user behavior analytics or certain other advanced data analytics, methods that extract value from data and seldom to a particular size of a data set.
With all the spectacular advances in digital technology with even medical science going to the dimensions of DNA tests and stem cell research instead of traditional forms of allopathy, in recent months we have also seen the emergence of a serious crisis over cyber security going to the extent of even a cyber war. On Wednesday the United States Justice Department appointed a Special Prosecutor to probe the extent of Russia’s involvement in the US presidential election held in November last year. This came amid speculation of another Watergate and growing calls for the impeachment of the newly-elected US President, Donald Trump on charges of obstruction of justice and related issues after he last week fired the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Reports say the fired FBI Chief James Comey had written a memo saying the US President had asked him whether he could stop the investigation on the alleged Russian involvement.
Last weekend global hacking attacks infected almost 60,000 computers worldwide. Hackers exploited stolen US spy agency tools to launch massive cyber-attacks on nearly 100 countries, the world news agency Aljazeera reported. It said cyber-extortionists tricked victims into opening malicious malware attachments to spam emails that appeared to contain invoices, job offers, security warnings and other apparently legitimate files.
The ‘ransomware’ then encrypted data on the computers, demanding payments of US$300- US$600 to restore access.
According to Sri Lanka’s Cyber Security experts Dr. Harinda Vidanage, who is also the Director of the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS), 2017 is the 10th anniversary of the first recorded cyber war, pitting Estonia against hack attacks allegedly sanctioned by Russia but to date there is no real forensic evidence to prove this claim. In a May 8 Daily Mirror article he points out that cyber attacks have often created what is now described as fake news. He says President Trump’s unguarded Tweets seem to have created an uncritical following elevating him to a cult figure. He appeals that even among Sri Lanka policy makers and academics it is high time to take the workings of cyber machinations in politics seriously as we do have an intense geopolitical regional rivalry that is played out in this country. If weaponized narratives comes to play it will wreak havoc in an already opaque and confused political environment.