August 31, 2015 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has launched its Big Data Project during a Regional Ministerial Consultative meeting on Ebola, hosted at the Bintumani Conference Center in Freetown last week.
The two-day meeting, which brought together Ministers of Health and Sanitation and Information and Communications in the West Africa sub-region, as well as representatives of mobile companies and international organisations, was organised by the ITU in collaboration with the government of Sierra Leone.
The Big Data Project is expected to address emergency health situations in the sub-region using Information Communication Technology (ICT) as tool to provide responsive capacities of health systems during national emergencies and natural disasters such as the current Ebola epidemic in the Mano River Union (MRU) basin.
According to ITU Chief of Project Support and Knowledge Management Department, Dr. Cosmas Zavazava, the project would help in improving timelines and completeness of official statistics.
He said the data can be used for the storage of information by the public and private sector for processing towards economic and social development.
“ITU will provide software to protect personal details by March 2016 and a study will be published to analyze the data with solution operator to set up servers to store the data for processing. Micro data from mobile network will be transferred to a new data server,” he said and added that the data could also be stored and used during emergencies, with access to interpret data on proper security encryption.
As Sierra Leone prepares to start the implementation of the post-Ebola recovery plan, Dr. Zavazava assured that the ITU would provide a two year concentrated assistance to the country under the project.
Also, ITU technical expert Dr. Ohira spoke about the utilisation of the big data, saying that it offers moving route and stay points of a subscriber, but cautioned that privacy is protected with randomisation.
“The data can be used for tracking trans-boundary and international movement by connecting data with randomised IMEI. It will also ensure development of real time monitoring system for subscribers and one can also determine whatever he/she does with his/her mobile phone,” said Dr. Ohira.
He noted that the data would not be easily shared to others without due process, but stressed that the use of alternative data sources may have bigger impact on statistical leapfrogging, data access privacy and data protection storing and analyzing data.