Data Driven Future

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By Advocate Hussain

We spend most of our time on mobile phones these days. While doing this, we ignore most of our daily tasks. Cellphones have thus become more of a nuisance now. It is happening because of fast and seamless Internet connectivity. Recent studies have shown that an average Internet user in India spends around 200 minutes (3hrs approx) online per day. Out of which 70% of the time is spent on Facebook and its family apps like Whatsapp, and Instagram. Similarly, an average American Internet user spends 300 minutes online per days and 50% of time is spent on social networking websites.

India has recently surpassed US in number of apps downloaded. Indians downloaded 12.1 billion apps, compared to 11.3 billion in the US, according to the annual reported conducted by App Annie, an analytics company. With low cost data plans by Reliance Jio mobile, data usage has jumped threefold in India.

One alarming factor is the amount of time we spend online doing absolutely nothing. Whatsapp is an instant messaging app and is one of the most used apps in recent times. Addiction to social networking has been found to have same effects as that of addiction to drugs. One cannot just do away with them by simply ignoring them. There are proper rehabilitation and Facebook de-addiction sort of clinics in the US. If we do not limit usage of social media, we are risking our time, our health and our relationships with fellow human beings. Other important things requiring our attention start piling up to the point of no return. It is being rumored, that social media apps and websites are coming up with the timer to make us conscious about the duration of time spent on particular app.

Our reliance on our gadgets has become much more important than it was ever before. Mobile phones have become extension of our brains. We store most of the things in this electronic gadget. Phone numbers, pictures, videos and songs were among the first few things when our phones started growing smart. Nowadays important information such as account numbers, credit and debit card numbers, pins, expiry and so on are also stored in mobile phones.

I have seen people storing net-banking user id’s and passwords in cellphones to make sure they do not forget the same and are easy to access when required. That is why a mere thought of losing our mobile phone give us a short panic attack.

One can take an optimistic approach and try to harvest benefits from this situation. Staying online means everyone is present at the same place all the time. For start-ups it can be an encouraging factor. It is easy to promote business nowadays. Social networking apps like Instagram, Facebook, offer target based audience promotions. Whatsapp has recently launched business accounts for organizations. We can promote our business as well as retain our customers and ensure 360 degree communications, have client testimonials and yes criticism too to improvise our services.

Internet usage like any other activity has its merits and demerits. One cannot think of a life without Internet these days. From hiring a cab, to booking an air-ticket, from ordering a pizza to purchasing a car you just need to tap screen of your phone for some time and there you go. Everything you ask for is delivered to your doorsteps. Time is not far when we will just have to make a wish about something, and it will arrive. Just like the way our parents told us about stories of heaven in good old days, wherein a mere wish is enough to grant you what you want.

Artificial intelligence is taking over and everything we do and think about today is going to change in a short span of time. Known faces like Bill Gates and Elon Musk have repeatedly been warning about onset of Artificial Intelligence(AI). Elon Musk goes on to the extent of saying that we cannot risk of being reactive to the AI , we don’t have time for that. We have to be regulative at the most, because that is what we can be. Time is not far when we will see robots walking alongside, or driverless cars overtaking us while driving. These machine intelligent faculties are going to be better than us in every aspect. First thing which AI is going to take over is transportation.

Our future is data driven and anyone having access to unlimited data is going to be powerful. Gone are the days when assets such as land and buildings were major instruments of calculating the net worth of company or an individual. We have a company naming Uber without having a single car in its own name is the largest transportation service provider, Airbnb, Oyo and so provides accommodations to large number of people without owning a hotel or a resort, Goibibo without owning a plane make people travel. Amazon.com the largest online retailer does not hold any stock to its own name. Our world has changed, our world is data-driven. In this data driven world every time we use our cellphones, or login to a website, we leave a continuous trail of our searched items, services, shopping, people we meet, interact. Any person with a little technical know-how can easily retrieve your entire trial and manipulate it to the extent you cannot imagine.

In 2017, Aadhaar, Government of India’s grand plan to provide a unique digital identity to the 1.3 billion people living in the country, exploded. It was first thought to be an optional as originally advertised. However, the government has already made Aadhaar mandatory to avail various government schemes run through Public Distribution System (PDS) and the LPG distribution Scheme. During the course of one year, more services got added to the list. The Government told regulated entities like Banks and telecom companies to make Aadhaar linkage mandatory. One or the other way, people were subjected to make Aadhaar, forcibly. Later on many services where availed only through linkage of Aadhaar, virtually making it compulsory to have one.

Alarming number of instances have come to light wherein the flaws in the technology have been highlighted. In one such instance, a company that was supposed to provide enrolment service, developed a program that used a stored biometric to conduct transactions without need for human intervention. In other words, information from UIDAI (Aadhaar number providing authority) database was made available allegedly by exploiting HTTPS weakness. Aadhaar polarized almost the entire population of India. Being data driven there is always a risk, and the risk is huge.

We can do little to limit our Internet usage; mobile phone is the last thing we leave by our side before going to bed and first thing we want to have a look at before doing anything else in the morning. Our minds are occupied with our mobile phones. A little meddling with the information can influence our mind to part with one party and do away with another like they did with US elections (revealed by Cambridge Analytica). In the same manner one can influence us in thinking and believing anything by manipulating data available to them. Beware while you leave your trials.

The author is an advocate at the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir at Srinagar and a career counselor. He can be reached at: adv.hussain071@gmail.com