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Less than Actual

Written by Fortune Neluswi

“Less than actual” – at the sound of that term, accounting and auditing experts would fire off red flags after a financial run on the books of any organization. I would like to swift you away from the world of debit and credit sides, to the formidable world of data. Taking into account the huge amounts of data being collected globally by corporations like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, it may certainly seem that we are living in times with outbursts of data the like of which planet Earth has never known. Let alone, terrestrial and non-terrestrial data exponentially adds to the portfolio of what we can potentially mirage our decisions regarding our planet and consequently our day-to-day activities.  



Humans are creatures of pattern and predictable behavior hence are more akin to repetitive actions with adaptive reactions. In my weekly schedule, I stick to a routine schedule, which when broken can potentially translate into nerve wrecking frustrations. I wake up at around 5:15am on a daily basis (well, my wife wakes me up, who in turn relies on the alarm). I normally leave home at 6:00am and arrive at the office just after 6:30am. I have a 15-minute window to leave home if I should get to work with less risk, frustrations, and possible nerve breakdown. Here is the account:


Through repeated observations, I have realized that if I leave my apartment between 6:00am and 6:15am, then I drive to work fighting fit. This pandemonium-void experience lasts for around 25minutes and I am at the office. However, if I miss that 15-minute window of departure, I have to come face to face with 1hr 20minutes of nerve-wrecking patience to get to the same office! A fifteen-minute window virtually re-writes the definition of patience on the road for the day. Like most people, not only have I used multiple reasons and logic, but also subjected to information by third parties to draw inference of this phenomenon. However what if the current systems in place are providing us with bias information to make the most effective decisions about our spiritual, business, family and social life patterns?



We always tend to think of monetary attachment to data when we can directly quote a client and do a CBA on a project profile. But, what ‘monetary’ value can be attached to the number of cats are in your area, or how many first graders will be seeing four walls with a new big human being (teacher) for their first time? Does knowing how many new schools the municipality has built in your area have any impact on what time you go to bed every night? Well, I am sure those parents who have taken their child to the infamous first-day-at-school can drive the point home better. Sending off your child to a distance school can determine your fate on your wake up schedule for the rest of the year (if not a lifetime!).


Honestly, should I care how my dogs are in my town? Imagine one Tuesday morning when you have a POC to pitch to clients; trust you me, you might discover how valuable it could have been to have known if there is a free dog vaccination at the Vetinary! The potential slow jam traffic at the stop sign up your street could become jam packed with people taking Fluffy and Huffy to see the animal expert! But do we really take time to get such details? Probably not. And in many cases, such information may only impact us once in decades, so we totally write it off our priority data list. Yet, the monetary value of such knowledge can split the difference between financial gains and loss. Should we manage to collate this data, who should own it, maintain and distribute it?



Do we really have access to all the information we potentially can own? For instance, what could be root cause of an early morning accident on the N1 that can result in a 2hr delay on the road? Could it be the fact that the fatigued driver drove 12hrs overnight for a delivery, or was the driver a non-licensed motorist, or a not so stable driver who was partying last night, or a late driver speeding to work after dropping off the kids at school. The corollary to this would be instigated by knowledge based on logistic companies delivery patterns, prevalence of clubs and clientele base structure, heat map of alcohol abuse vs spatial distribution, location based mapping of schools and child age groups, etc. All this data is inter connected somehow at some level but we tend not to take cognizant of its contribution to missing a flight. Therefore, in order to save ourselves from the “unknown” hidden data that lingers in the grey areas of life, we drive off to the airport 4hrs before departure!


Is it because it is such a pain to keep track, let alone access such seemingly trivial information? What is the real value on such information and how can we access data sources and turn it into useful assets? How much can I equate to it? Consider missing a flight for a crucial business meeting because you had to wait at a Stop-and-Go, because the road contractors put up a stop and go the night before to draw new lovely white lines on the road? Should I have had this information the night before then taken the N1 instead of the N2 en-route to the airport, surely this could have done some justice in my life.


We usually tend to be concerned about the information that correlates more strongly to our immediate circle of life. If I do not own a dog, I most like do not want to know nor care about what is happening at the Vetinary. Yet, a free dog vaccination day can cause a major hold up on the road, possibly no parking bays, long, very long waits at a four way stop. In my case, I go through three stop signs and six robots just to get out of my neighborhood. Imagine having to queue behind Huff-puffy and his owner in a 15-minute window period, which I need to beat! I could potentially be admitted to the clinic for shock treatment!



How much data are people exposed to or worse still have access to it? My mother recently decided not to be left in the ice-age so she joined the mobile generation and now owns a smart phone so that she can access Watsaap, as per her request. While she now owns a smart phone, she can hardly get around more than three Apps on the device (Messaging, Caller and Watsaap). The fact that smart phones (although some not so smart) can provide valuable data, she has no idea how much information she can use to make her own life better.  Incidentally, the same thing with many people today who do not know where or how they can access data from their digital hand held device. Even if they could, how much of the available information on that device could really help them make impactful decisions upon their lives? Notwithstanding the gross inaccuracies in some of that information with the periphery stance being on the possibility or lack of correlation between those aspects of information and the current need/ action for an individual.



Whilst there are commendable efforts to provide near-real time information to people by mobile industry giants, the apparent mismatch of target and source is impossible to ignore. There are many issues in life whose data we overlook or do not have access to or in some cases have access but cannot interpret nor care to read the data, yet it may correlate with how we act, behave, wake up or determine if we go to bed at 9pm or 2:30am! We live in a world filled with more unprocessed data and hence we just continue to live on expectation and advice from Google maps and leave home 4hrs earlier just so I can make the 15min deadline at the airport? Think about it, a 23-minute drive to the airport, even Google maps “advices” you to leave 4hrs before! I believe our access to information is less than is actual to make better life choices! The level of data in the world of data today is unprecedented, yet not concatenated.