The availability of data and information has the power to reshape our lives -from the choice of cloths we wear, to completely changing the course of human history. Data accumulation, data analysis and information sharing may seem not very important at first glance, but the very survival of mankind depends on how accurately and timely information (data) is shared
#datarevolution in the prevention of conflicts: In this age, warfare has changed and the challenges and threats posed by the existence of nuclear weapons means every bit of information has to be treated with care to avoid the outbreak of a nuclear war. The very survival of planet earth depends on how information is transmitted during a misunderstanding-in the year 1983, the Soviet air force shot down a Korean civilian plane killing all on board. The then US president Ronald Reagan gave a televised speech ‘…their deaths were the result of the Soviet Union violating every concept of human rights…’this speech completely demonized and alienated the Soviet Union. With Reagan’s very compelling speech, public opinion in most countries was in favor of the US sendingair defense systems and missiles to Europe to defend Europeans against an ‘aggressive, immoral and inhumane’ Soviet Union- the information that was made public by President Reagan was more of propaganda, than facts- the civilian plane accidentally got into Soviet airspace due to navigation error (data) and was heading towards a Soviet military facility. Moreover, at that time (in the night), there were five US military spy planes (RC-135) at the vicinity of the Korean civilian plane. According to data that was released, the civilian plane took an abnormal descent, and at no point did the Soviet pilot who shot the plane identify it as civilian. After several trials, he shot down the unidentified plane thinking it was a spy plane, which was a very common practice during the cold war. Warfare is based on lies, as confirmed by Sun Tzu in his book ‘Art of War’- ‘all warfare is based on deception’. This reckless or cunning behavior by the Reagan regime could have turned the cold war into a ‘nuclear winter’ for mankind.
Like in the past, we are faced with the same kind of conundrum-in July 2014, a civilian air craft-Malaysian MH17 was shot down in Eastern Ukraine killing all on board. Like in the past, the US administration seems to know who shot the plane and why the plane was shot down. The Obama administration seems to take the same trajectory as Reagan-dispatching air defense systems in Europe to defend Europeans against an ‘aggressive Russia’. Due to the fact that both countries still have the highest stock pile of nuclear warheads in the world, and the recent upgrade of Russian military doctrine to ‘strike first with nuclear’, the risk of a ‘nuclear winter’ still exists. The difference between today and the past is the fact that there are several sources of data and information (US satellite data, Russian satellite data, plane black box data, Ukrainian air traffic control data, and data from the manufacturer almaz antey) to help in the investigation to know not only who shot down MalaysianMH17, but why the plane was authorized to fly over a war zone. This time, we get to create a world where people are held responsible for their actions- a better world through knowledge and information. These two accidents prove the vitality of information in our day-to-day lives. #datarevolution.
#datarevolution in the prevention of disasters: According to data from NASA, before the year 1950, the total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has never been more than 300 parts per million. Since 1950, we have attained carbon dioxide levels of close to 400 parts per million. This unprecedented level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has resulted to the ‘greenhouse effects’, consequently leading to global warming. The global warming has resulted to a global climate change, and this change has devastating consequences- Ice Mountains are melting rapidly causing a rise in sea level in littoral regions thereby causing floods; great lakes are turning to great deserts causing an alarming water shortage; record heat waves are killing thousands; irregular rainfall is having a negative impact on agriculture causing food insecurity in third world countries. Predictions and data from research have shown that if emissions of greenhouse gases are not kept below a critical level, mankind would be doomed by 2050. Although leaders are racing against time limit the emission of greenhouse gases, the change has already occurred, and mankind relies heavily on research data, meteorological predictions and satellite imagery to carry on with normal day-to-day activities- in Europe, the recent heat waves were captured by satellites and all people on it path were either evacuated or advised to drink a lot of cold water; the numerous typhoons and hurricanes are captured by satellite and people are alerted on the possibility of a disaster; Even farmers in the very poor parts of the globe have been benefitting from data provided by research centers- this explains why they’ve been no famines in the last 10 years.
#datarevolution in health services: in the year 2014, the world experienced the second outbreak of one of the most virulent diseases known to mankind- Ebola! Unlike normal diseases, Ebola spreads just by coming in contact with an infected person’s body fluid. This meant that the challenge to eradicate the disease was unprecedented and utmost care had to be taken in the treatment of infected persons. As scientists raced against time in CDC Atlanta and labs all over the world, every bit of information had to be provided to frontline health workers in West African villages. If Data was not readily available for the health workers, maybe mankind would have been ‘on the brink of extinction’ as portrayed by the movie ‘resident evil’.
An old quote goes thus-‘prevention is better than cure’; we can only succeed in avoiding undesirable events if we are well informed about ‘the best of all possible universes’.