Research and innovation

PhD Studentships for 2014

Applications of Big Data for Social and Economic development

Big data has valuable patterns and information within it that we hitherto we did not have access to. Value can be created from big data in a number of ways: making data more transparent (e.g. sharing across public sector departments); as a basis for controlled experiments (e.g. health interventions); for segmenting customer populations for targeted interventions (e.g. randomised controlled trials); replacing/supporting human decision-making with automated algorithms; and innovating new business models, products, and services (Gartner (2012).

Others predict a tsunami of data and Internet-scalable computing with technologies such as Hadoop and noSQL that will make it possible to "monitor a pandemic as it happens, anticipate where the next bank robbery will occur, optimize fast-food supply chains, predict voter behaviour on election day, and forecast the volatility of political uprisings while they are happening" (Needham 2013, p. 1).

From a research perspective, big data presents many opportunities and challenges, from technical issues of data collection, processing, storage, and analysis, through guiding interventions and informing policy, to issues of privacy, security, and civil liberties.

Big data can be used to help organisations operate more effectively; it can also be made available to citizens and businesses through an open data market.

IT developers can access big data through application program interfaces (APIs), allowing them to build applications (apps) for smart phones and other devices. For example, a traffic planning app might be built that takes account of traffic congestion using a traffic light feed, overlaid with roadwork data, taxi availability, and local weather.

Collecting and storing sensitive data, analysing it, and making some of it available in an open environment presents a multitude of ownership, security, privacy, and ethical concerns. Proposals related to use of big data by local government to improve, for example, public health and to address health inequalities, to increase citizen engagement and the democratic process are welcomed, as are projects that consider the organisational change aspects of big data and ethical and privacy issues..

To discuss informally how you might develop this doctoral research please contact Professor Richard Vidgen, Hull University Business School.

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