Big data is a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundated organizations and nonprofits on a day-to-day basis. The key point is not how much data you have but how effectively you are able to analyze that data for insights that can lead to better decisions and strategic plans for your organization.
Sources of Big Data
There are three major sources of big data. Social data which comes from the Likes, Tweets & Retweets, Comments, Video Uploads, and other media that are uploaded and shared via the world’s social media platforms. Machine data which is information, which is generated by industrial equipment, sensors that are installed in machinery, and even web logs which track user behavior.
Transactional data comes from the daily transactions that take place both online and offline. No matter what size organization you have, you now have access to a lot of raw data which means a master data management tool will be helpful in order to be able to take that raw data and turn it into something useful.
Knowing how many people liked a Facebook page does not necessarily help you unless you know more about how they are interacting with the page and what they are seeking when they go to the page. The more you know about your customers or clients the better you will be able to serve them and the more effective your organization will become.
Three Case Studies: How Is Big Data Being Analyzed and Used Today
One area that currently is relying heavily on big data is the healthcare sector. While the healthcare sector has always used big data with the onset of COVID 19 this data is even more vital.
Such data can be analyzed to determine how quickly different variants are spreading, what the most effective ways to prevent spread are, and how people view COVID-19 and how closely they follow social distancing regulations. It is important to be able to analyze all the data available to help determine what messaging will lead to the greatest compliance of COVID-19 health precautions and how to encourage individuals to keep going even if they are experiencing burning out.
Such analysis can also help determine who is most likely to suffer from related health consequences such as mental health struggles in response to isolation.
Another area that is using big data is those groups who are working to decrease racism in our communities. In this case one of the first steps is to think about what data we collect and what data we ignore.
Often we find that there is inherent white privilege in the data we collect and how we analyze that data. Once we have given a close look to what data we collect we can use this data to make more just determinants. If say minorities are disproportionately having encounters with the law enforcement field by looking at big data, we may be able to determine why law enforcement is enforcing the law differently in different communities.
On the other hand, we might determine that there is a lack of a particular community need which is leading to the difference in responses. For example, if a community does not have any parks or other recreational spaces it is more likely that individuals will congregate on the street.
A third area where big data is being used is the nonprofit sector. In this case big data is being used to determine the most effective way to provide services. This analysis can determine what programs should be offered and how those services are offered, for example if programs should be in person or virtual.
Analysis of big data can also help determine what is keeping individuals from the services being offered. In some cases, it is access issues, in others it is issues of stigma, and in others it is a lack of awareness of what services are being offered. Big data can help nonprofits find new and creative solutions to help them best connect with their clients in a culturally sensitive manner.
Big data is all around, so there is no reason to not take advantage of such a resource of information and use it to better the lives of clients.