When an accident occurs, it's essential to focus on what needs to be done urgently in terms of helping the victim. But when the emergency is over, it's equally important to examine the causes of that accident and find ways to minimise the chances of it happening again.
That's the primary aim of the Injury and Poisoning Notification System (IPNS), an initiative of the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (Haad) that demonstrates how data collection can help improve our lives.
As The National reported yesterday, all hospitals and other health care centres in the emirate are required to report cases of injury and poisoning, so that they can be added to a central database.
Haad's head of occupational safety and health, Dr Jens Thomson, says all this information is being analysed and used to develop preventive measures by identifying where and when accidents happen and who is most at risk.
There are plans to share this data with the Abu Dhabi Police and other agencies, taking a coordinated approach to understanding the causes of injuries and fatalities and to working together to prevent them.
This system serves as just one example of how the sharing and analysis of data can help society become safer and more efficient.
Town planners can use data gleaned from censuses and other official sources to determine where to build schools, hospitals, roads, bridges and other essential infrastructure. It can help them decide where to put traffic lights to improve vehicle flow, or identify the best place to locate a noxious industry so it causes the least possible harm.
But this kind of data is not just beneficial to governments; it can also be useful to businesses and individuals.
For example, a business that sells goods that appeal to a certain community or age group could use demographic data to determine where best to set up shop. Families could use it to find a place to live that provides the amenities they require.
When it is collected and collated transparently and made widely available, statistical data is a powerful force for public good. Officials in the UAE have been moving in this direction. Making more non-sensitive data available online would be a positive next step.