Doing Good with Big Data
October 01, 2015

Big Data is driving better decisions for companies.

And Big Data can – and should -- play a big role in driving social good, too.

On that, we can all agree. But just how we get there remains a global challenge.

One of my co-panelists, Bill Hoffman of the World Economic Forum, may have best described the root of our conundrum: “When it comes to data, we’re all pointing at the moon and looking at our finger. It’s not about the data; it’s about its impact.”

Indeed, data’s impact on how our world functions cannot be underestimated. At MasterCard alone, we process over 43 billion pieces of information each second! Harnessing and applying some of that data toward solving the world’s problems should be a key objective for any organization that has the resources to help.

But for many, especially in the developing world, data is a mysterious black box that is difficult to interpret. That’s where data scientists can make an impact, and why I am so encouraged by the commitment of the organizations at the Social Good Summit to translate data into insights that can make things better.

That begins with ensuring data is complete and accurate. At MasterCard, we are working with governments and other organizations in Mexico and elsewhere to provide impoverished people with a digital and financial identity. Many poor people don’t “exist” – from a data perspective – because they don’t have traditional fiscal assets that enable them to be counted.

If we overcome this barrier, these people can be identified in other ways … and become eligible to engage in new forms of financial transactions. MasterCard’s work with the Nigerian and Egyptian governments is a prime example of linking government identity with payments – enabling people to become financially included on a massive scale.

I’m proud of the efforts the MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth, DataKind and others are making in tandem with non-profits and governments to leverage data and mobile technologies to solve some of the world's thorniest problems.

And we are delighted to be supporting this week’s launch of the Global Partnership on Sustainable Development Data, a worldwide network of governments, NGOs and businesses working together to strengthen the inclusivity, trust and innovation in the way that data is used to address the world’s sustainable development efforts.

Together, we can look past our finger and straight at the moon so that trusted, accountable and equitably-used Big Data makes a big impact for poor and disenfranchised citizens worldwide.


Shamina Singh is Executive Director of the MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth and a sponsor of Mashable’s sixth annual Social Good Summit. On Monday, she participated in its Data: The Lifeforce of Decision-Making panel, discussing how to unlock the value of data for humans in need.

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