NetApp Insight kicked off this week with a keynote from Kenneth Cukier, the Digital editor of the Economist. In his talk, Cukier shared how data has transitioned from an important resource to the most valuable resource. In economic terms data should now be considered alongside the likes of land, labor and capital. And on the balance sheet.
But how did we get here? As Cukier sees it, in the analog era, data grew linearly. But in the digital era it grown exponentially. This has made “the world a platform for the collection and value of data.”
According to Cukier, we need to “change the nature of the problem to a data problem.” Decisions are often made based on training and experience – but this will have to change.
For example, research has—through data–identified 11 telltale traits that a biopsy is cancerous. While medical literature had only identified 8.
The value of data often comes from a secondary purpose–when data is reused and applied to different problems. Cukier gave several examples:
- Walmart discovered people buy Pop Tarts before a natural disaster
- A British grocery store has been able to identify senior customers who may be soon facing or already suffering from dementia: they bought the same brands that they’ve always used, but just more of them
- Venture capitalists are able to model what it takes be a successful startup, and guide the startups they fund before they fail
- A call center discovered that group coffee breaks—rather than individiaul ones–improve performance
Cukier ended his talk by making a plea that’s important for all of us to hear. Many of the world’s problems can be solved with data, but there are hurdles. Valuable data remains locked in institutions and can’t be easily shared. Aged processes restrict reuse of data. Regulations don’t allow for data categorization. But, we have a moral imperative to share data to improve health, education and society.