Its About the Data Stupid

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), together with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and several other Federal 3-lettered Agencies will hold an event in Washington, D.C. this coming Thursday to address the challenges and opportunities related to “Big Data.” The event will be webcast live from 2:00pm to 3:30pm EDT.

According to their media advisory:

Researchers in a growing number of fields are generating extremely large and complicated data sets commonly referred to as “Big Data.” A wealth of information may be found within these sets with enormous potential to shed light on some of the toughest and most pressing challenges facing the nation. To capitalize on this unprecedented opportunity to extract insights and make new connections across disciplines we need better tools and programs to access, store, search, visualize and analyze these data.  To maximize this historic opportunity — and in support of recommendations from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology — the Obama Administration is launching a Big Data Research and Development Initiative, coordinated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and supported by several federal departments and agencies.

In addition, they're going to trot out a panel of thought leaders from academia and industry,  moderated by the New York Times' technology writer Steve Lohr.

And you, our trusting reader asks, "OK, and I should care because?"  Fair enough.

Its not so much that C[IQ] is about data, lots of data, data for customer intelligence... as it is about the implications in play here that sorta link back to our prior blather about the Semantic Web and the larger points about, well, the data. 

We'll leave aside the amusing query whether the Administration's announcement has any link to their likely play on the importance of innovation, the Tech Sector, and the Internet in their re-election campaign.  After all, once before, the tag line was "Its about the economy, stupid."  And it is again, albeit perhaps said differently.  So, here's the short of it (as short as we can make it):

The amount of data in our world has been mushrooming (um, that is a word, right?), and analyzing large data sets, the so-called big data will become a key basis of competition, underpinning new waves of productivity growth, innovation, and above all consumer insight.  And here are four big ideas we think you should consider:

  1. Data has flooded into every industry and business function and is now a critical factor of production, next to labor and capital. Researchers at McKinsey & Co. report that by the end of 2009, nearly all sectors in the U.S. economy had at least an average of 200 terabytes of stored data per company with more than 1,000 employees.
  2. There are at least five ways to leverage big data: [1] Big data unlocks value by making information transparent and usable at much higher frequency. [2], Compiling more transactional data, they create more accurate and detailed longitudinal performance information on everything, thereby unlocking competitive advantage if applied. [3] sophisticated analytics can substantially improve decision-making. [4] Big data allows finer segmentation of customers and far more precisely tailored products or services. [5] Big data can improve development of the next generation of products and services.
  3. The use of big data will become a key basis of competition and growth.  See #2 for details.

  4. Several issues need to be addressed to leverage the potential of big data. Policies related to privacy, security, intellectual property, and even liability will need to be addressed. Companies need to find and leverage the right talent and technology.  They also need to (re)configure workflows and incentives to optimize the use of big data.  Access to data is critical, and companies will increasingly need to integrate information from multiple data sources, often from 3rd parties.

OK, so the last point may have been a shameless self plug for a Firm whose brand echos the point -- customer intelligence for smarter marketing.  But it really is about the data.  And the government appears to get it; let's hope to the point of making innovation easier and not necessarily over-burdening us immediately with more regulatory schemes.  That said, we take the privacy and integrity issues seriously.  And you should too.

It starts with checking out their webcast this Thursday.  We'll give you our take afterwards.



Gregory Miller, CTO

Greg has been in the tech sector as a software architect and engineer, product manager, marketing and biz dev exec., and even IP and privacy lawyer for 3 decades. He is currently on the Board of a non-profit tech foundation reinventing America's election technology, is a venture adviser in the Silicon Valley, and serves as the CTO for C[IQ] Strategies, Inc.