Data have always had strategic value, but with the magnitude of data available today—and our capability to process them—they have become a new form of the asset class. In a very real sense, data are now the equivalent of oil or gold. And today we are seeing a data boom rivaling the Texas oil boom of the 20th century and the San Francisco gold rush of the 1800s. It has spawned an entire support industry and has attracted a great deal of business press in recent years.
This new asset class of big data is commonly described by what we call the “three Vs.” Big data is high volume, high velocity, and includes a high variety of sources of information. Next, to those traditional three Vs, we could add a fourth: value. This is what everyone is looking for, and this is why big data today get so much attention. In the quest for value, the challenge facing us is how to reduce the complexity and unwieldiness of big data so that it becomes truly valuable. Big data can take the form of structured data such as financial transactions or unstructured data such as photographs or blog posts. It can be crowd-sourced or obtained from proprietary data sources.
Big data has been fueled by both technological advances (such as the spread of radio-frequency identification, or RFID, chips) and social trends (such as the widespread adoption of social media).
Our collective discussions, comments, likes, dislikes, and networks of social connections are now all data, and their scale is massive. What did we search for? What did we read? Where did we go? With whom do we associate? What do we eat? What do we purchase?
In short, almost any imaginable human interaction can be captured and studied within the realm of big data. Big data has arrived. It is changing our lives and changing the way we do business. But succeeding with big data requires more than just data. Data-based value creation requires the identification of patterns from which predictions can be inferred and decisions made. Businesses need to decide which data to use. The data each business owns might be as different as the businesses themselves; these data range from log files and GPS data to customer- or machine-to-machine data. Each business will need to select the data source it will use to create value. Moreover, creating this value will require the right way of dissecting and then analyzing those data with the right analytics. It will require knowing how to separate valuable information from hype.
This world of big data has also become a source of concern. The consequences of big data for issues of privacy and other areas of society are not yet fully understood. Some prominent critics, such as Jaron Lanier, call on us to be cautious about readily believing any result created by the “wisdom of the crowd.” Moreover, applications of big data in military intelligence have created a growing concern for privacy around the world.
Indeed, we are now living in a world where anything and everything can be measured. “Data” could become a new ideology. We are just at the beginning of a long journey where, with the proper principles and guidelines, we should be able to collect, measure, and analyze more and more information about everyone and everything in order to make better decisions, individually and collectively.
From this perspective, The Report of The Global Information Technology 2014 contains all relevant information. The Global Information Technology Report 2014 features the latest results of the NRI, offering an overview of the current state of ICT readiness in the world. This year’s coverage includes a record number of 148 economies, accounting for over 98 percent of global GDP.
Click here to download the full report from WEF’s website.