The Economist this week explains in this article how mobile data can help track and curb the proliferation of Ebola across West Africa. One of the barriers to adoption however is the critical, and legitimate, concern surrounding privacy. But as the article notes, “phone data can be anonymised and aggregated in a way that alleviates these concerns. A bigger problem is institutional inertia. Big data is a new field. The people who grasp the benefits of examining mobile-phone usage tend to be young, and lack the clout to free them for research use.”
At First Access, we firmly believe that when data is securely managed, and utilized for its prescribed purpose – be it for financial inclusion, epidemiology, human rights or otherwise – there are stronger social outcomes. This is not only good policy, but good business practice as well. It is incumbent upon us to demonstrate to the next generation of leaders in business as well as in government that the deepening ocean of information on individuals available through mobile technology does not come with a commensurate loss in privacy. In fact, proper data management can lead to stronger and more secure identities ranging from greater financial access to more informed health decisions.