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Big Data: A Cultural Movement Driving Economy
December 27, 2016 News big data Economy MDEC


Understanding big data requires moving past buzzword definitions and technical jargon as it is vital in shaping the economic landscape nowadays.

Chief data scientist at Cloudera Inc, Sean Owen, said big data, or the field of data science with a sample size of virtually a trillion, has redefined the way people use statistics as the needs and possibilities of the modern environment are constantly changing.

“Big data has created a new movement and field. It is a cultural approach to collecting and using data rather than just a technological change or just the scale of it,” Owen told The Malaysian Reserve in a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur.

He said the rise of Internet and mobile platforms is a key driver in cultivating the new data landscape, affecting the way businesses and industries are practised today.

“Suddenly (with the web and mobile) there is as much data as you care to record. Now, it is not what we have to store but what we could store.”

He said the emergence of Internet of Things would not exist without data science as users can now connect devices to the Internet and utilise free storage and cheap softwares.

“It is now feasible to collect sensor data about everything that is happening on the device in real time and at full fidelity.”

Businesses have already recognised the importance of data science, with a survey published by the French consulting firm Cap Gemini SA, reporting 61% of 1,000 senior decision makers acknowledging big data as a revenue driver in its own right.

Company investments in data science also rose by three points to 48% this year, according to a survey by the research firm Gartner Inc.

Owen said with industries and landscapes constantly changing and adapting, falling behind the data curve would only leave room for a competitor to pounce and produce a more efficient and better product.

The banking sector in Malaysia has already faced disruption from the rise of financial technologies (fintech), with the Asian Institute of Chartered Bankers reporting 82% of local financial institutions perceive fintech as a threat to their business.

Owen said a bigger concern is foreign companies coming in to provide data-related skills and services to leverage on the gap left by local businesses.

“I think it is smart for countries as a whole to have a focus economically on data and are having the related skills locally rather than waiting to see what happens,” he said.

Malaysia has been quick to respond with this latest development, aiming to increase gross domestic product contribution from digital economies to 20% in 2020 from the current 16.3%.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission has allocated RM1 billion to provide a baseline of 20MB per second Internet bandwidth in ensuring supportive infrastructure for the digital economy.

Owen said the new economy can be utilised by both big businesses, and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) alike.

“Digital economy is going to be important not just because we need to build these services but because it will benefit small businesses that will need to consume those digital services as well.”

He said adapting to the new economy requires building a mindset where businesses are not perceived as stable entities but defined by a social media presence, understanding of consumer habits and a navigation of the spikes and falls in demand.

Cloudera, the software company operating out of the US, is one of the many companies providing support and services around an open software for data-driven problems and solutions.

“The data science space is big enough and it is a competitive market, which attracts the quality of softwares and services that the rest of the economy is going to consume. This is going to be true throughout the big data ecosystem,” Owen added.

He said mainstream economies in the US, Europe and Asia are on relatively equal footing in data science adoption because information, skills and ideas spread quickly with datarelated software free online.

Owen was a speaker at the Wrangle Conference Asia 2016 held last week in Kuala Lumpur, a single-day event jointly organised by Malaysia Digital Economy Corp (MDEC), Cloudera and Big Data Malaysia.

The conference aims to encourage and foster more conversations on big data in relation to its principles, practice and application across various industries.

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