Over the past year, we’ve heard stories everyday about the role data analytics has played for businesses as they undergo digital transformation.
This has been to keep up with a rapidly changing world – building efficiency, improving customer experience and driving revenue. What we hear less often, is how data analytics can actually help to save lives and create a safer world for all.
It’s not just about improving operations, data can have a tangible impact on the safety and quality of life for Australians. It can improve healthcare, education, and reduce the risk of injury or death. When it comes to ‘tech for good’, data analytics is an under-utilised tool; one that can literally save lives.
Road deaths are a global pandemic. Every year, road accidents kill 1.35 million people globally and injure 30-50 million more. As the world becomes more developed, more roads are built and more people travel on them. While this is a positive for economic development, according to the World Health Organisation, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5-29 years.
In Australia more than 1,000 people have died in the 12 months to May 2021. The number of injuries will be significantly higher, with 74,340 people hospitalised with injuries caused in transport accidents in 2019. However, Australia doesn’t currently have the systems in place to reliably measure serious injuries from road crashes, in part due to jurisdictional differences in definitions and reporting. We need a better system in place to accurately measure the impact of these accidents in order to prevent them.
iRAP: democratising access to road safety best practice
The International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP) is a registered charity dedicated to saving lives by eliminating high risk roads throughout the world. iRAP uses data to measure the human and financial impact of road safety. By gathering hundreds of measurements from across the world, iRAP informs policy makers about how they can make roads safer.
iRAP has successfully used data across the world to make local roads safer, from Queensland to Malaysia and Belize. However, learnings and best practices have tended to remain local and with a team of just 20 people locally, iRAP needed a way to leverage its insights more effectively and continue saving lives. Working with NTT, they developed iRAP Connect. iRAP Connect takes data-driven insights past number crunching to ensure the findings of local, on-the-ground teams are magnified globally.
This means that findings and best practice in one region can be deployed globally thanks to a technology platform that can be accessed anywhere. The platform also layers on training for local teams and advice for local suppliers, so that the value of the positive feedback loop can be maximised. iRAP believes if all new roads were to be built to its 3 Star specification, it would be a significant step towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals of halving road deaths and injuries by 2020. To get there though, we need to democratise access to road safety best practice, and leveraging data via platforms like iRAP Connect is the way to do it.
“Tech for good” is no longer a buzzword
Without action, 13.5 million people will die on the world’s roads in the decade to 2030. 500 million more will suffer life-changing injuries. Road crashes have vast impacts, both emotionally, for family, friends, and emergency services workers, and financially, costing an average of 3% of global gross domestic product. iRAP initiatives and projects are undertaken in more than hundred countries by thousands of partners including governments, road authorities, mobility clubs, development banks, NGOs and research organisations. Creating a platform that contains the results of more than 1million km of road assessments measuring 50 road safety attributes, gives partners across the globe insight into activities undertaken, resources to be shared, and metrics that quantify success. It’s a shining example of technology being used for the good of people around the world.
The role of data analytics doesn’t end with road safety. The applications are endless, with the potential to create real change. Healthcare organisations can use it to better predict and treat illness. Schools can use it to better understand students progress and provide support where it's needed. Until we move beyond our perspective of data analytics as only a tool for businesses, we won’t recognise the true power of this technology and we won’t be able to leverage it to improve our lives – both for ourselves and the generations to come.