Data Donation

Donating one’s data, to help others all around the world, seems like a noble cause (more or less) especially when this data can be used by numerous people all around the world to make day to day decisions.

The Audi Urban Future Award (AUFA) which challenged Mexico City, Boston, Seoul and Berlin to respond to “How data shapes mobility in the megacities of the future?” The winning entry (from Mexico City) speaks of a data platform that aids people travelling from one point to the next. It speaks of collecting data from people to understand the transit options, the time when they are travelling and the place they are travelling to – to assist the other people in deciding their options to go from one place to the other.

Courtesy of Audi Urban Future Initiative

Courtesy of Audi Urban Future Initiative

Transit takes up a lot of time, especially because it is a part of most of our daily lives. This data platform suggests using data from millions of people all across the globe, especially about the starting time and route that they are taking to reach their destination, to help others make smart decisions and to reduce the congestion, and therefore, the pollution.

This idea of a database that keeps updating itself, with information willingly donated from people all around the globe, is quite an ingenious one. And, with the option of donating, while remaining anonymous, increases the incentive to do so. One can even share their future travel schedule, route, travel time and preferred mode of transport, which helps decide future events. Also, the future events shared by others, can help in changing the plans made by considering the various transit options along certain routes.

Courtesy of Audi Urban Future Initiative

Courtesy of Audi Urban Future Initiative

This data – of weather at a particular place, the time and route you are taking to travel, the condition of a particular road, the congestion at a highway – can become information to someone who is, say, in an emergency.

The future of the urban fabric seems to be laid gently upon this information that millions, across the world, might donate. The information, that will help others make minute decisions. Travel, for example, becomes easier when one gets to know about the traffic and the movements of people from one region to another. It also becomes easy to predict what will happen in a city, somewhere in the near future.

This path towards a lesser traffic-congested city, seems to be having quite a few hurdles that one has to cross. The first being the question of security – is the data you donate, in the name of a better tomorrow, actually in safe hands. The safety of the sensitive data is brought into the limelight because of the various data that one can obtain from reading about the location one is in, was in and will be in. This might cause major issues if the information provided by the people is not secure or if everyone is given access to the raw data. The less protected the data, more sensitive the information that leaks out. If the data acquired from these millions of sources is not carefully gathered, without considering the security issues and the accessing points, the leak of information will cause further problems than was there.

The user of the information, processed from the raw data of a million donors, must have an agreement as to how he/she uses it. This ensures that the data is not misused, and neither are the details manhandled – especially the extremely sensitive ones.

Courtesy of Audi Urban Future Initiative

Courtesy of Audi Urban Future Initiative

Becoming a data donor is quite easy and considering that it changes lives all around the world, it seems to be the right (and good) thing to do (as long as the information donated is secure and remains in safe hands). Starting small, but helping people around the world – sounds like the way to go.

By Aishwarya Pai

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