2014 election for Indian parliament was a watershed election in many respects. After 3 decades a single party majority government came to power. But more importantly this is the first election that was fought more with computing power than muscle power. In fact, analytics based on big data is becoming the standard arrow in a smart politician’s quiver. During the run-up to 2014 election, BJP extensively used analytics in partnership with big IT majors like Oracle and SAP to understand the voting behaviour of various segments of electorates in each parliamentary constituencies and customized their campaign strategies accordingly.
Realizing the potential of analytics in general and big data analytics in particular, the Department of Science and Technology of the Government of India has taken big initiative to promote Big Data Science. The latest initiative by National Payments Corporation of India that is launching of a unified payment interface will involve use of analytics in a big way to identify and prevent any attempt to commit fraud on such a payment platform.
In USA the use of big data analytics gained momentum when Obama team started extensive use of analytics to reach right type of voters who ware their potential supporters. Realizing the power of analytics Republican Party started exploring the possibility of deploying analytics to compete more effectively with Democrats. A company like Deep Root Analytics was formed to cater such demands of politicians. Such companies are collecting, collating massive amount of data- structured and unstructured – from diverse sources including social media platform like Facebook and Twitter to tell their clients how, where and when to spend their advertisement budget so as to maximize the count of voters’ eyeballs. The amount of data that are being digested by these firms can be understood from the fact that TargetSmart, an analytics firm, has matched the entire 255 million person national voter file to digital platforms like Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and MSN by using personally identifiable information.
The victory Donald Trump in recent US election shows that traditional model based forecasting cannot work in a digitally connected world. Without using big data that social media generates, it is impossible to understand behaviour of today’s generation, whether in the area of politics or personal consumption.
Apart from using analytics for winning election, politicians are banking upon analytics in big way to improve the functioning of governments. In USA, the Department of Transportation is using licence plate recognition as well as cameras to monitor the flow of people as they travel by plane, train and automobile. This provides valuable insights about the requirement of additional infrastructure where bottlenecks are emerging. The city of Long Beach, California has deployed smart water meters to detect illegal watering in real time. This has helped many homeowners cut their water usage by as much as 80 percent.
Online delivery of educational services is picking up very fast in many countries. The U. S. Department of Education is using data mining and learning analytics in a big data strategy to enhance teaching and learning. It is possible now to detect when a student in an online course is faltering and immediate counselling can be offered to him or her on to a course correction. These advanced analytics also help to make these efforts in real time and thereby generate maximum positive impact of such a program.
Thus it is a misconception that learning analytics is useful only for a private sector job. In fact, it may turn out to be just opposite. When governments realize the power of big data and analytics, it would open a floodgate of demands for people with appropriate skill to analyse big data. As India is on the cusp of a digital revolution, the opportunity for data scientists are enormous. Those who realize this early and seize the opportunity will turn out to be the real smart people.
Author- Dr Ashok K Nag is a former senior executive of Reserve Bank of India with more than 35 years of experience in information management and financial data analytics.
He holds a Ph. D from Indian Statistical institute, Kolkata and a certified associate of Indian Institute of Bankers.
He has published more than 30 papers in Indian and International scholarly journals. Presently, he is heading NMIMS Centre of Excellence in Analytics/Data Sciences as Director.