Big data good for development — and business

Orange has what’s its calling a new approach to social responsibility: using big data to help address development challenges.

“We demonstrated that it is possible to find new means for helping decision makers and to orient public policies in a very factual and very economically affordable ways,” Nicolas de Cordes, Orange’s vice president, said in a video interview with Devex Editor Rolf Rosenkranz at the 2013 European Development Days in Brussels.

Orange, which operates in 20 countries in Africa, recently aggregated data from its networks in the Ivory Coast, stripped it of personal information and then used issued a global challenge to see how the data could be used to help development efforts in the West African country.

More than 260 research labs and universities responded, many of them using Orange’s data along with data from the World Health Organization and NASA satellites. One team was able to improve the way that populations are informed about epidemics, while another mapped traffic in the commercial capital, Abidjan. The possibilities for big data in development are huge, and can be used across sectors to create more efficient operations, said De Cordes.

He added that Orange gives back to the communities they work in, and if they start functioning better and the economy improves, the company will eventually see business benefits.

Devex was at the European Development Days 2013. Check out our coverage of Europe’s leading global development event of the year.

About the author

  • Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is a Senior Reporter at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.

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