While the European Union isn’t at risk of disintegration just yet, recent events have seen it become increasingly vulnerable. The financial meltdown in Greece - which saw both the ECB and the IMF offer it a $96 billion bailout - gave weight to the notion that EU is ultimately doomed, and in turn, seemingly strengthened the position of a number of prominent EU member states right-wing movements.
Big Data is often looked at within the context of predicting future events. As such, articles continue to emerge which ask whether data could have foreseen the Greek financial crisis. Lambasting data for failing to do this, especially considering the timespan from which the data would have been needed, is harsh. Despite this however, the EU’s approach to data must become more sophisticated.
Since 1995, a productivity gap has emerged between the EU and the US, caused in part by their more substantial investment in IT tech. Instead of concentrating on working together, EU nations have sought to improve their own domestic tech-sectors, causing inconsistency throughout. In 2012, for example, the European Commission put forward the idea of a ‘European Cloud’, yet three years on, little progress has been made.
There’s also been real concern from the US media that EU regulators don’t understand Big Data, believing that it damages competition. The data held by Facebook and Google, for example, was deemed unfair due to the inability of other companies to amass anywhere near a similar amount. While this is true, the barriers to data collection have never been lower, meaning that data collection has become a choice, not something which comes when a company reaches a certain size.
It’s not as if Big Data is an alien concept in the EU however. Many of the continent’s most established companies - including Shell and HP - have used data to their advantage. In London, for example, there are now a whole host of start-ups specializing in Big Data, which not only aim to help businesses, but also organizations within healthcare, education and government.
Healthcare is without question a sector which benefits from Big Data. As the rest of the world’s population rises, the EU’s is the only which is projected to shrink. Hospitals must make use of data to give the elderly more independence, and reliable care. This can be now increasingly be done remotely, with wearable tech allowing for automated reminders, which will put less stress on hospitals.
EU regulators remain wary of data and its potential to damage competition. Yet its ability to improve the quality of life - through both healthcare and education for example - should not be underestimated. Its success shouldn’t also be defined through its capacity to predict financial meltdowns, but the increased efficiency it can bring to a number of sectors which are in desperate need of it.