A Code Within the Coding: Data and Mobile Apps

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Click to learn more about author Mackenzie Thompson.

Algorithms influence the rhythm of work more than workers themselves. Which is to say, the algorithms responsible for how we work do more to help than hinder us: They strengthen our ability to communicate; to respond to events; to aid first responders who deal with life-threatening events; to be more responsive in general. Algorithms perform functions, which, if they function properly, allow us to maximize our performance as citizens. Nowhere is this point more relevant than it is within the world of mobile devices and the applications that enhance those devices. Nowhere is data more valuable than it is among the developers of applications, whose efforts can convert a threat to life and limb into a lifesaving solution.

The challenge has less to do with accumulating data than ensuring its accessibility. For example: If data is too difficult to retrieve, or if an app is too complex to master, its worth decreases when every second counts. Put another way, you cannot save a life if it takes a lifetime (or feels that long) to get what you need when you need it. Data of this kind is invaluable. It contains the intelligence a physician or a paramedic should have in an emergency. It is also one of the best ways to contain an emergency and bring it under control.

The broader challenge is one of perspective, regarding how people perceive data. The tendency is to treat data as an abstraction. It is hard, after all, to see the names and faces behind so many ones and zeroes. It is hard to connect numbers in a way that is meaningful, when there is a vast disconnect between theory and practice. We have a duty, therefore, to make the theoretical practical by demonstrating the importance of data.

Apps that advance this cause deserve the public’s attention, because they show how we can tap (or touch) an icon on a screen and do something worthwhile. They show how data can subject us to things we should know, rather than serve as a subject of mere conversation. It is this distinction between action and the merely academic that matters most. The former is the result of data, while the latter relegates data to the few at the expense of the many.

We must promote data, and explain the premium it provides, because we may have to use it ourselves. We may need to learn how to apply it, with apps that tell us what to do, when there is no one else available to instruct us. We must, in other words, humanize data. We must personalize its significance, so it can aid every person who needs or wants to use it, who is also in need of emergency assistance.

Apps are gateways to unlocking data. They democratize information in ways almost none can match, thanks to their user-friendly features and interactive options. They can empower us to save lives, thanks to a combination of how-to guidance and real-time intelligence.

Data is a precious asset.

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