In 2012 the world witnessed the enormous impact of big data analytics in the political sphere. Psephologists and data scientists were busy analyzing, predicting and utilising the vast amount of data across various Internet platforms to not only predict the outcome of the presidential elections, but also to influence voters. The price tag of the election was a record breaking $7 billion – of which, an estimated $76 million dollars was spent on online advertising and a combined total of $875 million on TV advertisements.  This marked the beginning of a new era for election campaigns and predictive analytics.

With India’s 16th national election under way, predicative analytics will be used by politicians in a similar vein to that of the presidential elections in America. Indeed, the impact of data analytics in India will differ significantly to America. Information is not as readily available; constituency size is much smaller (on average 200,000); two-thirds of the population still face power-outages; and India does not have a bipolar party system like America. All of these factors make predictive analytics considerably harder.

However, what is interesting about the Indian election is the fact that more than 65% of the population is under 35, and 100 million new voters will be added to the electorate this year. The majority of this portion will be heavily engaged in social media and the Internet in general, rendering their data extremely useful to analysts.

With the rise of technology, analysts will be able to tap into data from a range of sources — from peoples SMSs, Facebook likes, and tweets to missed calls and videos —  and derive insights into voter behaviour. Furthermore, this information will help politicians to select the right ads to the right people, and also decipher which advertising channels should be used to reach the best audiences. All of this explains why there has been a 260% (an estimated $300 million) increase in advertising campaigns this election.

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Whether big data will be a crucial factor in the 2014 election remains to be seen. But, as Internet and mobile penetration increases, and polling becomes more robust and sophisticated, big data analytics will become essential for Indian politicians. For now, it is yet to be known whether those politicians spending money on predictive analytics will gain any meaningful lead on their opposition.

(Image Credit: jaipal singh bandral)

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