In 2010, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said at the Techonomy conference that the amount of data being created from the beginning of human civilisation to 2003 was the same as the amount of data created in two days in 2010. Fast forward to a decade later, it was estimated that the amount of data stood at a staggering 44 ZB, and 1.7 MB of data was being generated every second.
Data is a highly valuable commodity in today’s digital economy. It has become indispensable to the development of technologies like artificial intelligence and an important input to services like production, logistics, and online services – making it a critical link in the value chain of several industries.
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What Runs The World – Information!
Within this huge amount of data lies a treasure trove of information that provides insights into consumer behaviour, emerging market trends, and a peek into the future. The goal of any company is to make sense of this data and strive to derive value from it and accelerate its growth.
In the provider-consumer ecosystem, each stakeholder recognises the importance of information. This has also led to the emergence of a new term – data economy – where businesses, individuals, governments, and other agencies gather, organise and share information from a wide range of sources. The data economy has helped businesses tap into unknown markets and serve customers with data-driven insights.
To begin with, useful insights from data helps business leaders enhance business performance, streamline operations, and build customer loyalty. A study by NewVantage Partners revealed that over 91 per cent of leading companies are accelerating their investment in data; 75 per cent of business leaders said that the driver for their data investment comes from fear of disruptions from competitors. For example, business leaders have access to all the company information and their competition at the touch of a button. Such easy access helps them analyse their current position and make plans for future growth.
Not just managers, even employees benefit from such access to data. They can assess their professional performance, look for improvements, collaborate with their immediate seniors and achieve more.
For customers, too, having information enables them to make the best decisions for themselves. As many as 63 per cent of respondents in a survey said that they expect personalisations from the companies they work with as a customer. This personalisation is with respect to marketing and product suggestions, order confirmations, and other related communication between them and the company. Take, for example, a simple food delivery order – the customer knows the time when the order was placed, the time when the concerned restaurant accepted the order, the time of order getting picked up, and a near-perfect ETA.
For the major part of the last few decades, the power of data was kept in the hands of IT departments and data analysts who had the skills and understanding required to crunch and interpret the data for the organisation properly. This was practised because employees were not trained on how to use the growing data effectively.
The need to change this practice came when the organisation started facing a great influx of data that gave rise to bottlenecks. It was felt that the business users needed to be given access to data without IT being a gatekeeper.
Enter Data Democratisation
Data democratisation refers to providing unfettered and enterprise access to data – everyone in the ecosystem should have data at their fingertips and should benefit from accelerated access to data. It has been observed that this democratisation enables participation that further drives innovation.
While desirable, the implementation aspect of data democratisation is a major challenge. To begin with, the data program should be structured to be self-aware, and it should be ensured that the end-users exposed to data should understand what they are seeing.
That said, it was not an easy task to provide access to data. Data used to be stored in silos, with only specific business executives having access to it to manage the business. Even if the data silos were broken down, this data is of little to no use if there are no appropriate tools to analyse it. And lastly, businesses fear that the integrity and privacy of data would be compromised if it is made accessible to more people.
To allay the doubts regarding data democratisation, business leaders could start with laying down the framework for data governance. IT experts can work with the management to put forth policies that protect data. The organisation must train its employees on how to use the data to achieve company goals via seminars, guides, and access to experts. Overall, a culture must be cultivated to help members extract meaning from the data.
Encouraging Data Democratisation
A few experts believe that a comprehensive bill would help in handing over better agency to citizens over their data. One of the frontrunners in this aspect is Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), also regarded as the most comprehensive and stringent legislation so far. The US also has several bills under consideration. One of the most significant ones is the ACCESS Act (for social media platforms with over 100 million users) which would make it easier for users to move their data to other services easily.
India has the Data Protection Bill that is still under works. This bill details norms that are to be followed whenever data is collected, stored and transferred. It was limited to just personal data in its earlier form and has now been extended to non-personal data.
Big tech companies, too, have taken several steps to ensure the privacy and integrity of data. One of the most important ones is the Data Transfer Project initiative by Facebook (now Meta), Google, Twitter, Apple, and Microsoft. This initiative outlines how data would be moved between platforms without having to download or upload data.
This article is written by a member of the AIM Leaders Council. AIM Leaders Council is an invitation-only forum of senior executives in the Data Science and Analytics industry. To check if you are eligible for a membership, please fill the form here.