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‘Big Data’ edition: From the Editor

The 2013 elections in Pakistan were marked by a new phenomenon: social media and use of data to plan election campaigns. Politicians built large social media networks, using mediums like Facebook pages, Twitter handles, SMS channels and robo-calls. Likewise, the data generated by opinion polls, conducted both online and through perception surveys, formed the basis of political narrative, especially for new political parties.

Since the 2013 elections, social media and data has taken center stage in the politics of Pakistan, especially for the youth of Pakistan. This issue of MIT Technology Review Pakistan is focused on the use of social media and big data in politics.

The rapidly growing role of social media and data analytics in Pakistani politics reflect the emerging global trends. Obama’s election campaign used technology and social media in a remarkable way, which tangibly impacted the election results. Famously, Obama campaign’s use of targeted calling of potential voters, identified by sophisticated analysis of citizen profiling data, resulted in mobilizing a significant percentage of Democrat voters on the day of election. The details of Obama campaign’s use of data and social media to rally voters is covered in the story A More Perfect Union.

The article by Jawwad Rizvi sheds some light on the response of political parties in Pakistan to social media and big data for campaigning and canvassing in elections. It also highlights the use of social media in 2013 general elections and the growing use by all political parties in Pakistan.

The article by Khalid Khattak gives a detailed account of the role of big data in the U.S. and Indian electoral systems, related startups and subsequent big initiatives by these two governments in the use of big data. It also highlights the possibility of employing big data analytics in upcoming general elections in Pakistan.

Waqas Banoori’s article gives insights into big data industry in the country with a mention of some of the users of big data in Pakistan.

Ahmed Raza’s article highlights the limitations and challenges surrounding access to data in Pakistan. He narrates an interesting tale as to why and how conducting population census has been a big challenge in Pakistan where last census was conducted in 1998.

The Q+A with Teradata Pakistan’s Managing Director Khuram Rahat brings to light the use of big data by the corporate sector for more informed business decisions. It also highlights the use of big data by some public sector organizations in Pakistan and the big potential that still needs to be tapped.

Happy BIG reading!

Dr. Umar Saif

Umar Saif tweets @umarsaif

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