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13.1 Social implications of big data



Unit 13.1 Social implications of big data
Unit 13.2 Influences of globalisation and fourth industrial revolution (4IR)

image Learning outcomes

At the end of this chapter you should be able to:

  • discuss the social implications of big data with regards to online services and video conferencing, interactive whiteboards, social websites
  • describe the infuences of globalisation and fourth industrial revolution (4IR).


Big data has many positive aspects and has given us insights in all industries, some examples were discussed in Chapter 11. However, big data is constantly evolving and is difficult to monitor or analyse. Organisations and tech departments, government agencies, consumer protection groups and consumers are struggling to keep up with the continual changes.


Big data is larger, more complex data sets, especially from new data sources. These data sets are so large that traditional data processing software cannot manage them. These massive volumes of data can be used to address business problems you would not have been able to solve before.

Big data has become capital. The value that the world’s biggest tech companies offer comes from their data, which they’re constantly analyzing to produce more efficiency and develop new products.

Did you know

Here are some examples of how big data is used in teaching and learning applications:

  • Learnwithhomer.com is designed to help children learn to read and has a complete phonics program and hundreds of science field trips and exciting art and recording tools. An engaging app connects learning to read with learning to understand the world.
  • Red Roof Inn is an app that helps people who are stranded in a foreign place due to bad weather. The marketing department uses historical weather information and plan in advance to target stranded airport passengers. Daily in America, 500 flights are cancelled, leaving approximately, 90,000 passengers stranded. Big data is used to identify the areas of demand by using search advertising, mobile communications, and other methods to drive digital bookings.

Activity 13.1 Revision activity

13.1.1List and describe the four characteristics of big data.

13.1.2Explain three ways that big data can be used.

13.1.3How can big data be used in a school environment?

13.1.4How was big data used in the two case studies above?

13.1.5What is the downside to the use of big data? Provide an example.

13.1 Social implications of big data

Big data is used in online services like:

  • Online banking: Proper analysis of big data can help detect any and all the illegal activities that are being carried out, like the misuse of credit cards, misuse of debit cards, customer statistics alteration and money laundering.
  • Booking reservations: Big data from several sources has helped travel agencies, hotels and the tourism industry better understand what customers are looking for and this has led to more direct reservations.
  • E-learning: Big data that is being collected is related to the students, faculties, courses and results. This can provide insights to improve the effectiveness of educational institutes, like:
    • customised learning programs suited for each individual to improve the overall student results
    • reframing the course material directed at what is relevant and what students are needing to learn
    • improved grading systems to get clarity on students’ progress
    • individual career prediction based on the student’s progress, strengths, weaknesses, interests
    • providing relevant resources necessary for students’ learning, for example, data for interactive whiteboards.
  • Video conferencing: Video conferencing is the use of technology, by users living in different areas that receive and transmit audio-video signals enabling real-time communication. This can help to link companies’ far-flung employees and customers in order to reduce travel cost.
  • Social websites: Social media wouldn’t be possible without big data, as people share photos, videos, personal data and commentary on social media websites like: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Social websites collect big data on the relationships, interests, and spending habits and social networks of their users. This helps them to provide personalised content, and advertisers are able to hyper-target users.


  • Big data makes it possible for you to gain more complete answers because you have more information.
  • More confidence in available data—means a completely different approach to tackling problems.


  • Analysis from Big Data can be used by businesses to discriminate against consumers when they are being analysed and assessed in greater detail.
  • Companies also capture big data on consumer habits for targeted marketing. This has raised concerns about privacy because every time you click on a website, post on social media, use a mobile app and comment via email or to call centres, your data is collected for future use. Society have a right to their privacy but without their knowledge or consent this right is being eroded.
  • As big data increases, it exposes more of our data to potential security breaches. For example, if you have approved a company to analyse your data, how certain are you that they will not fall prey to a cyber-attack or that they will not sell your data. This could result in your private data being in unsafe hands.


Big data can help you address a range of business activities, from customer experience to analytics.
Once data is online, it is analysed by various organisations in order to make decisions. Big data helps businesses become better marketers and service providers. Big data also enhances product development, customer experience, operational efficiency and innovation.

image Activity 13.2

In small groups discuss if and how big data has social implications on:

  • Online banking
  • Booking reservations
  • E-learning
  • Video conferencing
  • Interactive whiteboards: Read the following article for further information:

Smart Classrooms come to public South African schools

By Brent Lindeque

Figure 13.1: Learners benefit from access to education through its Smart School initiative.

The newest Smart Classroom in South Africa will be unveiled today by Samsung’s President and Managing Director, Mr Sung Yoon, at Michael Zulu Primary School in Tsakane, Brakpan.

According to Equal Education, 41.7% of South African Grade 10 pupils drop out of school before their matric year. One of the main reasons – the absence of a solid early schooling foundation. Samsung is not only providing tools and skills towards learners passing Grade 12. This goes beyond matric. This approach is rooted in their core values and business philosophy which states that they will devote their human resources and technology to create superior products and services to contribute to a better global society.

Providing access to technology and education for underserved communities is a step closer to reaching this goal.

‘As a market leader that drives innovation and develops products according to our clients’ needs and wants, we understand that the future of education is in technology. With Samsung’s classroom technology, educators can get more students engaged, improve participation, and most importantly, make learning fun,’ says Pitso Kekana, Samsung’s Head of Public Affairs and Corporate Citizenship.

Mr Kekana went on to say that ‘in addition to providing the appropriate technologies, Samsung also wants to ensure that the teachers at Michael Zulu Primary School take ownership of the Smart Classroom and receive adequate training to optimise the use of the facilities’.

Samsung believes that technology is a powerful tool for social change, especially when it comes to education. The Samsung Smart Classroom was born out of the belief that success cannot only be measured by business achievements but should also be measured by how well a business serves its communities and impacts people’s lives.

[Adapted from source: https://www.goodthingsguy.com/business/smart-classrooms-south-africa/, accessed 12 June 2019]

  • Social websites

13.2 Influences of globalisation and fourth industrial revolution (4IR)

Globalisation can be defined as a process of connection, interaction and integration among people, companies, and governments. This process is driven by international trade, investment, technology and big data. This has resulted in:

  • An efficient market where there is an equilibrium between what buyers are willing to pay for a good or service and what sellers are willing to sell for a good or service.
  • Increased competition between companies which improves the service and quality of goods or services delivered to the consumers.
  • Security as countries’ economies are intertwined and dependant on each other.
  • Wealth equality throughout the world as poorer nations have more job opportunities.

Society has gone through various stages. These are:

  • First Industrial Revolution is famous for industrialising agricultural work.
  • Second Industrial Revolution, in the late 19th and early 20th century, brought iron and steel into industry.
  • Third Industrial Revolution is the Digital Revolution with the age of the computer and the internet.
  • Fourth Industrial Revolution sees the digitisation of our society.

Globalisation and technology are intertwined as the movement of people, goods and ideas is accelerated and broadened by new forms of transport and communication. The spread of the internet and the relatively low cost of digital technology connect more people with the world. For example, small traders in shanties on the outskirts of Nairobi export across east Africa. In China, ‘Taobao villages’ allow previously cut-off rural populations to sell goods on Alibaba’s trading platform.

Sectors which the Fourth Industrial Revolution has impacted greatly includes:

  • Agricultural sector: Al-powered machine vision systems can measure crop populations and detect weeds or plant pests and use robotic sprayers to precisely apply herbicides.
  • Healthcare sector: Precision medicine helps doctors analyse a patient’s genome sequence, medical history, and lifestyle, making a diagnosis more reliable.

image Activity 13.3

In small groups research the influences of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the following sectors:

  • Retail
  • Building
  • Social
  • Travel

CONSOLIDATION ACTIVITY Chapter 13: Social implications

1.Read the following and then answer the questions that follow.
Margaret and Joe have decided to sail around the world with their two children. They have several concerns including:

  • the weather that will affect their route
  • schooling for the children
  • accommodation in a foreign country when they want to travel inland
  • transport to various tourist destinations
  • social platform if they have any queries with sailing or to connect with like-minded people
  • using currency in foreign countries
  • connecting to their office and continuing to work.

a.How can big data and globalisation make this family’s experience easier?

b.Suggest apps that use big data for each concern that they have.

c.For each app that you suggested, provide the pros and cons of using that app.

2.What are interactive whiteboards and how can they benefit the classroom experience?

3.Do some research, then explain what the Fourth Industrial Revolution and what impact it is having on society.