Fourth Industrial Revolution

What's 'modern data' and how can it be used to help vulnerable people?

Modern data: a city's lights in the dark as seen from above in a story about the fourth industrial revolution

'Fourth Industrial Revolution' technology relies on modern data - or instant data. Image: Unsplash/Dennis Kummer

Raj Verma
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Technological Transformation

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  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has fundamentally changed how we live, work, communicate and thrive in an increasingly connected world.
  • This connectivity relies on unprecedented amounts of modern data that enables real-time insights and instant decision-making.
  • We must understand and harness technology's potential to have a positive impact on everything from people's livelihoods to the environment.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has fundamentally changed how we live, work, communicate and thrive in a world bound together by technology.

We are ubiquitously and unlimitedly connected — with unprecedented amounts of data available at our fingertips in rapid, real time. This data, whether it tells us what colour our rideshare vehicle is, or if fraudulent activity is detected on our credit card, is known as modern data.

Modern data is data that’s available instantly — it grants unprecedented access and insights so its users can make decisions that drastically affect an outcome. It is data that empowers people to make decisions in the moments that matter most.

But it’s also about the responsible, ethical use of data for good, without compromising the regulations or policies in place designed to protect people who use and rely on such data every single day.

Modern data is also everywhere, presenting us with endless amounts of information on many aspects of life. Rather than overwhelm, modern data can empower individuals to safeguard their wellness and safety, or manage their environmental impact, for example.

Using modern data

Beyond the ease of use for applications, data and technology in the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be helpful for people, no matter their socioeconomic status or place in the world.

Take for example, Thorn, a company dedicated to ending the trafficking and abuse of children through an approach that uses the right technology to combat a growing epidemic.

Over the last 15 years – even with the introduction of legislation such as the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in the US – reports of digitally available and abusive materials have increased an astonishing 15,000%.

Taking the fight directly to traffickers and distributed materials, Thorn’s mission — driven by equal parts technological expertise and passion — led them to create Spotlight. Spotlight monitors and scans chat rooms and illegal sites to identify trafficked children, and has been called “the greatest tool [law enforcement has] in the fight against trafficking”.

In a constantly shifting digital environment, Thorn needs to keep Spotlight agile, tapping into the power of real-time modern data to ensure children are quickly identified and saved — even two seconds is too late.

It’s true that new technologies can be used by abusers, but it can also be mobilized by Thorn to stop the abuse. As data has become more ubiquitous and available, so has Thorn’s effectiveness.

By using fast, scalable and unified technology, Thorn abides by data privacy laws and the CIPA to assist law enforcement in identifying an average of eight children per day — speeding up investigation time by as much as 63%.

While Thorn uses the power of data to effectively protect children, the same power and immediacy extends into other areas. Unprecedented, unplanned events in history have a way of putting a harsh spotlight on the power of information — none more so than the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Agencies, governments, hospitals and relief providers needed accurate data made available instantly to protect communities. As the virus wreaked havoc, Bangkok-based True Digital wanted to lead the fight against COVID-19, tapping into real-time monitoring technology to prevent new viral outbreaks.

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To do this, the company needed to mobilize modern data, and create a real-time visualization and alerting system that used geographic density of mobile phone locations (where users opted in) to determine possible disease clusters.

Adhering to data privacy laws in Thailand — where data controllers and processors must receive consent from data owners and use it only for expressed, verbalized purposes — True Digital took the ultimate tool of connectivity, and turned it into the ultimate tool in disease prevention.

Given the urgency of the pandemic and the rate of spread, the True Digital team needed to build their solution in two weeks, which they did using technology designed to aggregate and present data as fast as possible.

As a result, the Thai government was able to determine which medical deliveries could be made to help Thai authorities, proactively planning their resource strategy according to population density. Today, True Digital continues to iterate and extend on their web app, Tracepulse, to fight the pandemic and prepare for other health crises.

Creating a more sustainable future with technology and data

The Fourth Industrial Revolution undoubtedly has — and will continue to have —an impact on the environment. The rise and use of available data has made us more aware of our place in the world than ever before, especially the impact we have on our surroundings.

It has made us think about how to do more with less. This is especially true for gas and electric utility companies, which in recent years have experienced a massive consumer desire and shift to smart meters — not to mention, greater electricity access around the world.

Amidst this shift, predictive analytics is critical in keeping costs low and electricity available in even the most remote localities.

Armed with insights delivered from smart meters that are updated in real time, utility companies can perform rapid analytics and health tests — accurately predicting grid volume, building sustainable practices and reducing electricity waste. It’s data that, quite literally, keeps the lights on.

Where technology will lead us in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is built on the power of technology. It has no borders, and breaks down data barriers, making modern data accessible and useful to every corner of the world. And when it touches every corner of our lives, data used ethically and in real time is data for good.

The technologies that truly power the 4IR — and will continue to do so — are those that unify and simplify modern data. They’re technologies that make it easier and unobstructed to access data in real time, and act on it without question.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Fourth Industrial RevolutionEmerging Technologies
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