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News > Bangalore, Swedish scientists jointly developing tool to harness big data for solving future problems

If Bangalore's population goes up another 10%, how bad the city's water problem can get? Is there another garbage crisis in the making? These are some questions that often catch the city administrators flat footed. Without coherent data or tools to process them quickly, officials often struggle to equip the city for the future. 

But that could change if teams of scientists from Bangalore and Sweden succeed in their mission. Scientists at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore  and Sweden succeed in their mission. Scientists at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore and the Stockholm Environment Institute are creating a data-driven solution, called the Bangalore Urban Metabolism Project (BUMP), to predict and help solve problems of the future. But that could change if teams of scientists from Bangalore and Sweden succeed in their mission. Scientists at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore and the Stockholm Environment Institute are creating a data-driven solution, called the Bangalore Urban Metabolism Project (BUMP), to predict and help solve problems of the future. 

"Big data is useful, but only when contextualised," said Deepak Malghan, who is one of four key people behind the project. Malghan is an assistant professor at the centre for public policy in IIM-Bangalore. Big data, or a set of complex and large data sets, are not only useful for enterprises but are also becoming increasingly useful in understanding growing cities and urban problems. 

"Suppose you are trying to locate public toilets in the city, what kind of data might be useful? It turns out that carefully combining data from our water and electricity utilities can shed completely new light on this question," said Malghan, who has specialized in ecological economics. Eric Kemp-Benedict and Vishal KMehta from the Stockholm Environment Institute are the other two scientists behind the solution. 

The fourth person is a Web developer. "The data framework that we are trying to build helps provide a deliberative platform for discussing alternative visions for the city," said Malghan who added that "data for data's sake" is of no use. "I like to use data as if people mattered," he said. Currently, the Web-based solution can take in data such as supply and demand and create various projections for the future. 

The team is updating BUMP with data from 2014. The portal is now being used by researchers, public agencies and urban planners. "A lot of thought seems to have gone into it. It's just a matter of getting more data into the tool so that it becomes more useful for urban planning," said Nisha Thompson, the co-founder of DataMeet, a community for data science and open data enthusiasts. 

The bigger goal of the project, which began in 2012, is to develop what is being called the metabolism framework using which consumption data will be compared with social, economic and demographic information and predict scenarios in the future. 

The plan is to take the model to other cities as well. While some public agencies have started using data-based models to look into the future, getting government officials to adopt such tools remains a challenge. It is also difficult to source accurate data at the city level. "Unlike national data, at the city level, the lack of consistent data becomes a challenge," said A Ravindra, chairman of the Centre for Sustainable Development. 

"For instance, if you are looking at water, your estimation should include a rigorous analysis of all sources available and not just surface water." Planners also had little access to rigorous research or data tools, said Ravindra, who was previously chief secretary to the Karnataka government.

Source - The Economics Times


 

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