Data for research and analysis aimed at quality of life is essential for the wellbeing of the society at large. Thankfully, data is available.
Data is available everywhere – in the devices we use – servers and desktops, laptops, tablet PCs, mobile phones, enterprise storage devices like SAN and NAS and individual storage devices like CDs, DVDs and pen-drives. Big data is available in the Cloud – the online service providers have invested billions to create datacentres that cater to the needs of enterprises large and small as well as government offices, educational institutions and non-governmental organizations. A huge amount of data of individuals is also in the cloud in the form of mails and social media content.
While technology today provides all ways and means to access all this data – more importantly data that is shared – no individual is authorised to snoop into others' data. The non-disclosure agreements signed at the very start of every data sharing endeavour does not permit the service providers to either access data themselves or allow other agencies to access the data of the tenants.
When researchers and analysts need data they are dependent on the owners of this data. Again, just data from one person will not serve the purpose. They will need huge database to arrive at credible results. The larger the sample space, the more reliable the conclusions of such research and studies. So, the people in need of such data venture out the users through various means – currently the social media is a good approach path. They call for users to share their information voluntarily and participate in their studies. If the cause for which a particular study is carried out interests them, the users share information which in turn would help in better analysis and interpretation of data. This is crowdsourcing.
Right from studying the preferences of end users of products (software, hardware, consumer products and commercial products) to choosing the winners of competitions held through various media through voting to verifying the validity of a claims by individuals of agencies, crowdsourcing has become a very powerful means of predicting risks or evaluating facts. Even the medical research has got a shot in the arm in the form of crowdsourcing.
A typical example for crowdsourcing enabled study - Recently a claim by the US government was found to lack credibility as a result of a study conducted by The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School.