Centre Counts On Big Data To Grow Biotech

By harnessing the power of Big Data and promoting the manufacturing of laboratory equipment, the Department of Biotechnology expects biotechnology to be at the foundation of a $100-billion industry by 2025, rising from the current $7-$10 billion.

  • The government expects this growth to be largely led by industry and it will play the role of facilitator, in terms of attracting quality manpower and putting in place competent regulatory processes.
  • Critical steps to achieve this would be to ensure that projects were adequately and promptly funded, besides getting biotechnologists and researchers to be more ambitious with their research proposals.
  • Two critical pieces of legislation championed by the DBT — the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill and the Human DNA Forensic Bill — are yet to make it to Parliament.
  • The National Biotechnology Development Strategy (NBDS), by 2020, expects to launch four missions in healthcare, food and nutrition, clean energy and education; create a technology development and translation network across India with global partnership, including five new clusters, 40 biotech incubators, 150 technical transfer organisations and 20 bio-connect centres.
  • The NBDS is the result of consultations over the past two years with more than 300 stakeholders, including scientists, educators, policy-makers, industry, voluntary and non-governmental organisations, regulators and international experts.

BIG DATA

  • According to the optimists, big data — in combination with what is described as the Internet of Things (IoT), a world where the vast majority of gadgets, machines, and humans are connected to the internet and to each other — promises a future where all important decisions about business, life, and society would be taken purely (and happily?) on the basis of data.
  • International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that the global market for big data will reach $16.1 billion in 2014, achieving growth six times faster than the overall IT market. With the anticipated surge in data consumption and generation, growth of the big data market is inevitable. In addition, security programmes associated with the technology will see increased prominence across sectors such as retail, IT, e-commerce, health, aviation and telecom.
  • Human judgment, which is typically partial, flawed, and conflicted — and often distorted by factors that are not measurable, and do not compute, such as moral qualms, or empathy — need never come into the picture. This as believed, would make for greater efficiency, higher productivity, and the optimal utilisation of resources for the greatest good of the greatest number.
  • There is a name for such decision-making driven purely by big data analytics. It’s called ‘evidence-based decision-making’. Its semantic twin is ‘actionable information’. Evidence-based decision-making can and does pay off brilliantly in business operations — this is what enterprise software solutions do, and they were indeed the tech precursors of big data analytics. It is ideal also for, say, predicting the weather, or earthquakes, and for identifying bankable talent in team sports, as the bestselling book/ film Moneyball showed.
  • Besides, big data already plays a major role in the management of infrastructure and industry, not to mention security, military affairs, health, and geopolitics, as the Snowden leaks made amply clear.
  • In other words, we no longer need to think. Collect data, feed them into the maw of analytics, and wait for solutions to emerge.
  • The exponential growth of big data analytics, and its increasing utilisation in government policy, is premised on many things, including growth in IT infrastructure, the digital inclusion of those hitherto excluded by poverty, and an overarching colonisation of the analog universe by the digital.
  • But what it needs above all is the erasure of the very concept of privacy. Many of us have already voluntarily surrendered our privacy, either for the sake of convenience or to save costs — by ticking the ‘I accept’ box when we sign on to a social media or email service.
  • But privacy — while critical for a functional democracy – is not the only casualty of big data. The graver threat is a digital replay of colonial era exploitation, with data replacing mineral resources and raw materials as the source of value.