Data seems to have become the most popular buzzword in the technology industry – data theft, data privacy, data sharing, data security and proprietary data have caught people’s attention. Data has become so important because, globally, we are moving towards a digital economy where data will form the nucleus of all activities. India is already moving towards rapid digitisation with its Digital India drive.
The last few decades have seen an increase in the number of devices and sensors linked to digital networks and people adopting mobile and other digital devices. Given the growing number of digital transactions and offline transactions as well, data collection is at an all-time high.
This huge amount of data, created from simple online transactions or derived from various web activities or other devices, when aggregated at a macro level qualifies as Big Data.
The data collected can be put in three different categories – structured, unstructured as well as semi-structured. Structured data is usually stored and viewed in a format, say excel sheet, which makes it easier to access and search. Unstructured data is difficult to search and analyse while semi-structured data is comparatively easier to deal with.
The vast volumes of data collected is a treasure trove. Data analysis – examining, weeding-out irrelevant data, transforming and classifying data with the objective of culling out useful information and insights to derive conclusions – is very important. It can foster innovations, competition and improve productivity. It will provide directional changes for firms to improve productivity and profitability. This is why the ability to store, aggregate and combine and analyse data is becoming so vital.
As end users, we need to appreciate that digital data has pervaded every industry and business function to prove itself an important factor of production. It supports and sometimes replaces human decision-making through automated algorithms ushering in higher levels of transparency and competence. It also helps innovate new business models, products and services.
Big Data will be a key factor for competition and growth for firms unleashing new ways of productivity, growth and consumer surplus. While it must be acknowledged that some industries, because of their inherent nature, will be able to benefit more, its industry application is never in doubt.
To be able to fully harness the potential of Big Data, industry will have to address several issues. Concerns about data policy, appropriate technology and techniques, systemic organisational changes and talent pool creation and the widespread access to data for all will be some of them. So, who will be the greatest beneficiary of this analysed data? The consumer will benefit the most since data analysis will help marketers and others understand the wants and needs of the consumer better. Such focussed targeting with such in-depth understanding is new. Creating suitable products and applications thereafter to meet the needs will open many new avenues for those using this data.