28 July 2014

Global Pulse: Resilience in Development...

The asymmetric threats cast upon the private sector on a daily basis across the globe, are rising and more complex.  As a result, Operational Risk Management is a discipline that has quickly matured in the past decade.  

Today, as we embark on this blog post number 1060 we can reflect on our amazing journey.  When you search Google from our location on "Operational Risk Management Blog" this blog is the number 1 link.

This endless journey encounters new insights and has transversed industry sectors to include financial services, energy, automotive manufacturing, aerospace, defense industrial base, pharmaceuticals and government both local and federal.  It has involved the following four fundamental principles of ORM:
  • Accept risk when benefits outweigh the cost.
  • Accept no unnecessary risk.
  • Anticipate and manage risk by planning.
  • Make risk decisions at the right level.
Whether the oversight and pursuit encountered the risks of fraud, economic espionage, workplace violence, natural disasters, terrorism or cyber vulnerabilities does not matter.  The threats and hazards that span the spectrum of Operational Risks to the enterprise are vast and increasingly diverse.  The discipline continues the quest to improve and to learn new lessons from both the private sector and government.  Now both of these need to also include a third dimension, that is evolving and could be the place to look for real innovation:  Non-Governmental Organizations. (NGO)

The NGO community is the environment that has now gone beyond response and is finally becoming more predictive:
Global Pulse is a United Nations initiative, launched by the Secretary-General in 2009, to leverage innovations in digital data, rapid data collection and analysis to help decision-makers gain a real-time understanding of how crises impact vulnerable populations. Global Pulse functions as an innovation lab, bringing together expertise from inside and outside the UN to harness today’s new world of digital data and real-time analytics for global development. The initiative contributes to a future in which access to better information sooner makes it possible to keep international development on track, protect the world’s most vulnerable populations, and strengthen resilience to global shocks.
There are plenty of situational awareness analogies that can be made to the risk management of vital private sector or government assets over the years.  Predictive operations have been evolving for years with the goal of preemptive capabilities to detect an attack on a Homeland.  The analysis of information from disparate sources is nothing new.  Link analysis and other methods of qualitative and human factors analysis give us the cues and clues to a possible evolving pattern of human behavior.

Yet what is fascinating now about the NGO perspective, is the intersection of Big Data and the mobile phone:
Wherever people are using mobile phones or accessing digital services, they are leaving trails behind in the data. Data gathered from cell phones, online behavior, and Twitter, for example, provides information that is updated daily, hourly and by the minute. With the global explosion of mobile phone-based services, communities all around the world are generating this real-time data in ever-increasing volumes. These digital trails are more immediate and can give a fuller picture of the changes, stressors, and shifts in the daily living of a community, especially when compared with traditional indicators such as annual averages of wages, or food and gas prices. This is especially crucial during times of global shocks, when the resilience of families and their hard-won development gains are tested.
These global shocks that are economic, geopolitical or as a result of climate change are at a macro level nothing more than environmental volatility.  This volatility in markets, government leadership, religious conflict and drought are what is driving the NGO development community to be more predictive and to be more preemptive.

In concert with this focus on predictive intelligence is the initiative "data philanthropy".  How can the data sets from our respective countries be shared to work on the really hard global problems together?  Open Data Sites is just the beginning.  You have to make sure that you recognize the attributes of "Big Data for Development" vs. the private sector or purely government:
Big Data for Development sources generally share some or all of these features: 
(1) Digitally generated – i.e. the data are created digitally (as opposed to being
digitised manually), and can be stored using a series of ones and zeros, and thus
can be manipulated by computers; 
(2) Passively produced – a by product of our daily lives or interaction with digital
services; 
(3) Automatically collected – i.e. there is a system in place that extracts and stores
the relevant data as it is generated; 
(4) Geographically or temporally trackable – e.g. mobile phone location data or
call duration time; 
(5) Continuously analysed – i.e. information is relevant to human well-being and
development and can be analyzed in real-time;
What if the private sector and the government started looking through a different lens?  Or perhaps the other way around.  Is the NGO development community capable of learning from the mistakes with data that intersect with privacy and national intelligence?  Operational Risk Management is just as much an imperative in the NGO environment, as we evolve in the integration of Big Data for global humanitarian initiatives.

When you really look at the opportunity and the challenge ahead, you must consider this intersection of data today in context with where development is still in its infancy.  Look at this visualization of Google search volume by language.  Notice the darkest parts of the planet Earth.  These are where the NGO community lives today, with little access to the Internet, regardless of language.  The human resilience factor necessary to evolve in these non-connected IP (Internet Protocol) deprived areas of the world, must be addressed as we aspire to become more predictive risk managers.

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