Pawan Garg, 'Former Member, Radio Regulations Board, ITU, Geneva and Wireless Adviser to the Govt. of India (Retd.)

The Big Data for Big Impact is the theme of the World Telecom & Information Society Day (WTISD), being celebrated globally on May 17, 2017.

On this day in 1865, the International Telegraph Union (ITU) was founded by 20 countries and entities, mostly from Europe, by signing the first International Telegraph Convention in Paris, for cross-border exchange of telegraph messages. With technological developments, the telephone, wireless communications (including satellite communications) and various other information and communication technologies were added to the activities of ITU. Its name also changed from International Telegraph Union to International Telegraph & Telephone Union and subsequently to International Telecommunication Union, its present name (ITU). At present, ITU is a UN specialized agency for information and communication technologies – ICTs. Its present headquarter is in Geneva (Switzerland).

Earlier, May 17 was celebrated annually as World Telecom Day since 1969. It was formally instituted by the Plenipotentiary Conference (supreme organ of ITU) in Malaga-Torremolinos (Spain) in 1973. Subsequently in 2005, in recognition of ITU as the lead UN agency for ICTs, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) – (Tunis, Nov 2005), called on the UN General Assembly to proclaim May 17 as the World Information Society Day. In March 2006, the UN General Assembly adopted such a Resolution (No. 60/252), to focus global attention on the enormous benefits of the digital revolution in ICTs for the world's inhabitants. Its annual celebration focuses attention on the uneven development of ICTs and the need for corrective steps.

The ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (Antalya, Turkey, Nov. 2006) welcomed the UN General Assembly's decision and decided to name May 17 as the World Telecom & Information Society Day. The ITU Council, governing body of ITU, adopts a specific theme for each subsequent World Telecom & Information Society Day, in line with the relevant guidelines. Big Data for Big Impact theme for WTISD-2017 was decided by ITU Council in its session of 2016. WTISD-2017 marks the 152nd anniversary of ITU.

Big Data is an extremely important technological development. It is an umbrella term for the large amounts of digital data being generated from various devices used by global population, which often include emerging technological capabilities, for solving complex tasks. Big Data for development broadly implies turning imperfect, complex, often unstructured data into actionable information in development context. The advanced analysis of this Big Data provides important insight, which can strongly complement the evidence-based decision making. This can be used for various development activities at national, regional, and international levels, toward attaining the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030.

On the occasion of WTISD 2017, the ITU has called upon its member states to create and strengthen their respective national data ecosystems for sustainable development in which data is generated, captured, shared, and analyzed in innovative ways, and to increase the value of data and analytics through national development policies. It has also urged them to establish a data-driven decision making, service delivery, and operational efficiency culture in their respective societies.

At the same time, while urging national policies and strategies toward open data and big data analytics, the need for unambiguous regulatory framework to enhance data transparency and utilization has been impressed by ITU. Need for equitable data protection as well as suitable processes to promote adequate privacy, security, public trust, and ethical use of data involving variety of stakeholders, has been highlighted..

Big Data has many important fields like management of databases (operational databases, analytic databases, distributed data grid/cache, etc.), big data applications (performance management, artificial intelligence, etc.), core technologies, tools for data analytics, etc. The global market for Big Data and business analytics/intelligence is estimated to grow to more than US USD 130 billion by 2020 (451 Research), while estimates by IDC predict the revenues to grow even higher.

India, which has made tremendous progress in the field of IT-related services, has a big opportunity to derive tremendous benefits through suitable R&D as well as skill development/capacity building in the important field of Big Data.

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