Can Big data help alleviate economic inequality in India? According to a report by the Johannesburg-based company New World Wealth, India is the second-most unequal country across the globe, with millionaires controlling 54 percent of its wealth. With a total individual wealth of $5,600 billion, it’s among the 10 richest countries in the world — but still the the average Indian is relatively poor and lives below the baseline. Data from Credit Suisse on India indicates that the richest 1 percent own 53 percent of the country’s wealth. While at the end of the pyramid, the poorer half jostles for a mere 4.1 percent of national wealth. Severe economic disparity has been one of the common refrains in India’s growth story and experts are wondering as to how it could pose a threat to the country’s future growth.
In this article, we will look at how data science is being used as a turning point for a score of initiatives, thereby improving economic disparity in India.
Big Data Use Cases Across The Sector
Big Data For Telemedicine: How can data science techniques be used to reduce the income inequality? Vijay Nadadur, computer scientist and CEO at Stride.ai mentioned at a forum about how big data can help tackle rural India’s problems and help the country grow sustainably. Sharing his thoughts, Nadadur mentioned how big data can play a major role in transforming healthcare for rural India with a sensor-based data collection framework. This could indicate various factors — even warnings about seasonal diseases. These indicators can then pave the way for need-based preventive healthcare to the citizens. Also, big data can help in promoting telemedicine, at least at a primary healthcare level.
Providing Density And Location Coordinates To Fishermen: Nadadur also cited another use case where analytics helped in providing information related to the density of fish along with the location coordinates to fisherman. This could be a big booster to the lives of fishermen, increasing their efficiency, and in turn, profits.
Predictive Analytics For Farming: In 2016 Microsoft collaborated with International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and Andhra Pradesh government, to develop a new mobile application for farmers. The idea behind developing the Sowing App and providing Personalised Village Advisory Dashboard was to provide powerful cloud-based predictive analytics so that farmer felt empowered with information and insights which were required to take farming decisions. This app helped farmers reduce crop failures and increase yield. The app and dashboard were already loaded with in-depth data about rainfall of over the last 45 years and 10 years of groundnut sowing progress data. This led to better income opportunity for the farmers. Smart sensors are already being deployed for precision farming that help to get out of drought-related information to farmers.
Reducing Dropout Rate At Schools With Microsoft: In a bid to improve Andhra Pradesh’s education ecosystem, Microsoft is working with the state Government on a machine learning-based model to analyse and predict dropouts and take preventive action. Andhra Pradesh government uses Azure Machine learning to predict which students are likely to drop out of school across its 10,000 schools. Officials have created more than 6,00,000 predictions using Azure Machine Learning, revolutionising how Indian local governments increase student retention.
Data poverty has been attributed as one of the major impediment to guiding global development. Lack of data or patchy data was cited as one of the main causes for tackling problems such as poverty, malnourishment and economic inequality, among others. Absence of an infrastructure needed to collect and collate data for public policy was one of the main causes to address societal issues. As a part of the effort to ending economic inequality and poverty, India, along with all the other countries in the world, has committed to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. According to reports, researchers from IIT Madras and IIT Bombay have collaborated with Harvard University to build India’s first comprehensive database on infrastructure projects, called the Integrated Database on Infrastructure Projects (IDIP).
Sharing his thoughts on the IDIP, Thillai Rajan, a faculty of the department of management studies at IIT Madras said that the project would promote cutting-edge first hand research in this sector. The database would use advanced data analytics tools and a map-based interface to present various dashboard views. As part of the project, the institutions are also collaborating with National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) on building query-based tools to enable users to drill down to specific features. Meanwhile, the Open Government Data (OGD) platform features data on various sectors and latest government data-led initiatives. As part of the initiative to use big data in governance, the government used big data to tackle the black money problem in India in 2016. To increase the tax base, the government rolled out demonetisation and advanced analytics played a crucial role in identifying data patterns, which was further used by false authorities to handle the cases effectively.
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Richa Bhatia is a seasoned journalist with six-years experience in reportage and news coverage and has had stints at Times of India and The Indian Express. She is an avid reader, mum to a feisty two-year-old and loves writing about the next-gen technology that is shaping our world.