Doctor Livingstone, I Presume?

The title of this blog post is a famous quote from history (which as most quotes are disputed) said by Henry Morton Stanley (who actually was born John Rowlands) when he found Doctor Livingstone (David Livingstone) deep into the African jungle in 1871 after a 6 month expedition with 200 men through unknown territory.

Today it’s much easier to find people. Mobile phone use, credit card transactions and tweet positions leads the way, unless of course you really, really don’t want to be found as it was with Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden.

One of the biggest issues in data quality is real world alignment of the data registered about persons. As told in the post out Out of Africa there are some issues in the way we handle such data, as:

  • Cultural diversity: Names, addresses, national ID’s and other basic attributes are formatted differently country by country and in some degree within countries. Most data models with a person entity are build on the format(s) of the country where it is designed.
  • Intended purpose of use: Person master data are often stored in tables made for specific purposes like a customer table, a subscriber table a contact table and so on. Therefore the data identifying the individual is directly linked with attributes describing a specific role of that individual.
  • “Impersonal” use: Person data is often stored in the same table as other party master types as business entities, projects, households et cetera.

Besides that I have found that many organizations don’t use the sources available today in getting data quality right when it comes to contact data.

It’s not that I suggest actually hacking into mobile phone use logs and so. There are a lot of sources not compromising with privacy that let you exploit external reference data as explained in the post Beyond Address Validation.

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