Big data for social recovery

BIG Data drives marketing today. Global brands are realising big gains from Big Data analytics by influencing consumer behaviour. Amazon, one of the first companies to anticipate the potential of Big Data, proved it when its chief executive officer Jeff Bezos became the world’s richest person, after Amazon’s earnings report was recently made public. Forbes stated that retailers who leverage on Big Data are able to increase their operation margins by 60 per cent.

Data-driven intelligence has been used successfully especially in technology and business, while being rapidly explored in other areas — health, agriculture, transportation services, banking sectors and so on. Big Data has also been said to influence voting behaviours, for instance in the controversial Trump and Brexit campaigns.

Since Big Data trend has arrived in Malaysia, is it possible to use it to combat some of Malaysia’s social problems?

Seldom a day passes without us reading the news about social illnesses in Malaysia: drug-related problems, physical and sexual abuse and teen crimes. How can we fix this?

Unfortunately, the complexity of social problems has diverted people’s attention away from the root causes of the problems, thus leading to unsuccessful solutions.

Here, Big Data could play a big role through pattern-matching algorithms which can give valuable insights into the origin of the social problems as well as provide focus on finding effective solutions. Several countries have attempted to leverage on the power of data analytics for this purpose.

In the United States, the opioid epidemic is causing the death of more than 15,000 patients every year as well as impacting the lives of a further two million people who abuse or depend on painkilling drugs. In addressing the problem, data intelligence is used to identify effective therapies to stop the addiction, cut down on fraud in prescribing the drugs, as well as in deciding ideal places to build new opioid treatment facilities.

In New Zealand, Big Data is used to predict the risk that a child will be maltreated. It is said that the prediction is as accurate as a mammogram detects breast cancer. These insights allow vulnerable families to be assisted ahead of time, preventing the likelihood of children being physically, emotionally or sexually abused. Further, data intelligence could help centres classify the thousands of calls they receive based on the urgency for those families to be assisted.

Lack of education, whether in terms of limited opportunities or lack of interest, could also be one of the contributors to social problems. While we see Malaysia becoming a more competitive society, the focus on top students obtaining the best results also mean that a lot of others are left neglected.

Also in the US, data is used to develop an “early warning system” to identify students who need the most assistance in terms aid programmes. Further, Big Data is also used to assess the effectiveness of intervention programmes implemented.

However, application of Big Data analytics in social context may not come easy. Challenges come in the form of:

LACK of structured Big Data for social problems. Oftentimes, data are missing, incomplete, or stored in silos. Due to the nature of social data that are messier, more dynamic and complex by virtue of the sum of stakeholders involved, collaborations between various parties to contribute and integrate data is critical to create effective strategies.

SHORTAGE of skilled workforce. As we move rapidly into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the change in the supply and demand for jobs undergoes a similar rapidity. Unfortunately, the immense demand for data specialists does not match the scarce supply.

THREATS imposing ethical issues in relation to data privacy, confidentiality, transparency and prejudice. There have been concerns that Big Data tools would reinforce prejudice and biases by targeting a certain group of people. Privacy and confidentiality of data, which can compromise identity, could be abused if they fall into irresponsible hands. Big Data also requires transparency – unfortunately, more often than not, data is being used, or sold, without people’s knowledge and consent.

While Big Data may be the answer to address the critical social problems Malaysia is facing, the effort in battling the social plague requires support from all parties to ensure the strengthening of data collection as well as the advancement of skilled workforce. Further, collaboration between statisticians, social work practitioners, ethics specialists and experts on disparities is important. Lastly, it is also important to realise that Big Data is a double-edged sword — Big Opportunities, Bigger Responsibilities.

DR MOONYATI MOHD YATID is a senior analyst in the Technology, Innovation, Environment and Sustainability (TIES) Department, Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia

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Big data for social recovery

BIG Data drives marketing today. Global brands are realising big gains from Big Data analytics by influencing consumer behaviour. Amazon, one of the first companies to anticipate the potential of Big Data, proved it when its chief executive officer Jeff Bezos became the world’s richest person, after Amazon’s earnings report was recently made public. Forbes stated that retailers who leverage on Big Data are able to increase their operation margins by 60 per cent.

Data-driven intelligence has been used successfully especially in technology and business, while being rapidly explored in other areas — health, agriculture, transportation services, banking sectors and so on. Big Data has also been said to influence voting behaviours, for instance in the controversial Trump and Brexit campaigns.

Since Big Data trend has arrived in Malaysia, is it possible to use it to combat some of Malaysia’s social problems?

Seldom a day passes without us reading the news about social illnesses in Malaysia: drug-related problems, physical and sexual abuse and teen crimes. How can we fix this?

Unfortunately, the complexity of social problems has diverted people’s attention away from the root causes of the problems, thus leading to unsuccessful solutions.

Here, Big Data could play a big role through pattern-matching algorithms which can give valuable insights into the origin of the social problems as well as provide focus on finding effective solutions. Several countries have attempted to leverage on the power of data analytics for this purpose.

In the United States, the opioid epidemic is causing the death of more than 15,000 patients every year as well as impacting the lives of a further two million people who abuse or depend on painkilling drugs. In addressing the problem, data intelligence is used to identify effective therapies to stop the addiction, cut down on fraud in prescribing the drugs, as well as in deciding ideal places to build new opioid treatment facilities.

In New Zealand, Big Data is used to predict the risk that a child will be maltreated. It is said that the prediction is as accurate as a mammogram detects breast cancer. These insights allow vulnerable families to be assisted ahead of time, preventing the likelihood of children being physically, emotionally or sexually abused. Further, data intelligence could help centres classify the thousands of calls they receive based on the urgency for those families to be assisted.

Lack of education, whether in terms of limited opportunities or lack of interest, could also be one of the contributors to social problems. While we see Malaysia becoming a more competitive society, the focus on top students obtaining the best results also mean that a lot of others are left neglected.

Also in the US, data is used to develop an “early warning system” to identify students who need the most assistance in terms aid programmes. Further, Big Data is also used to assess the effectiveness of intervention programmes implemented.

However, application of Big Data analytics in social context may not come easy. Challenges come in the form of:

LACK of structured Big Data for social problems. Oftentimes, data are missing, incomplete, or stored in silos. Due to the nature of social data that are messier, more dynamic and complex by virtue of the sum of stakeholders involved, collaborations between various parties to contribute and integrate data is critical to create effective strategies.

SHORTAGE of skilled workforce. As we move rapidly into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the change in the supply and demand for jobs undergoes a similar rapidity. Unfortunately, the immense demand for data specialists does not match the scarce supply.

THREATS imposing ethical issues in relation to data privacy, confidentiality, transparency and prejudice. There have been concerns that Big Data tools would reinforce prejudice and biases by targeting a certain group of people. Privacy and confidentiality of data, which can compromise identity, could be abused if they fall into irresponsible hands. Big Data also requires transparency – unfortunately, more often than not, data is being used, or sold, without people’s knowledge and consent.

While Big Data may be the answer to address the critical social problems Malaysia is facing, the effort in battling the social plague requires support from all parties to ensure the strengthening of data collection as well as the advancement of skilled workforce. Further, collaboration between statisticians, social work practitioners, ethics specialists and experts on disparities is important. Lastly, it is also important to realise that Big Data is a double-edged sword — Big Opportunities, Bigger Responsibilities.

DR MOONYATI MOHD YATID is a senior analyst in the Technology, Innovation, Environment and Sustainability (TIES) Department, Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia

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Big data for social recovery

BIG Data drives marketing today. Global brands are realising big gains from Big Data analytics by influencing consumer behaviour. Amazon, one of the first companies to anticipate the potential of Big Data, proved it when its chief executive officer Jeff Bezos became the world’s richest person, after Amazon’s earnings report was recently made public. Forbes stated that retailers who leverage on Big Data are able to increase their operation margins by 60 per cent.

Data-driven intelligence has been used successfully especially in technology and business, while being rapidly explored in other areas — health, agriculture, transportation services, banking sectors and so on. Big Data has also been said to influence voting behaviours, for instance in the controversial Trump and Brexit campaigns.

Since Big Data trend has arrived in Malaysia, is it possible to use it to combat some of Malaysia’s social problems?

Seldom a day passes without us reading the news about social illnesses in Malaysia: drug-related problems, physical and sexual abuse and teen crimes. How can we fix this?

Unfortunately, the complexity of social problems has diverted people’s attention away from the root causes of the problems, thus leading to unsuccessful solutions.

Here, Big Data could play a big role through pattern-matching algorithms which can give valuable insights into the origin of the social problems as well as provide focus on finding effective solutions. Several countries have attempted to leverage on the power of data analytics for this purpose.

In the United States, the opioid epidemic is causing the death of more than 15,000 patients every year as well as impacting the lives of a further two million people who abuse or depend on painkilling drugs. In addressing the problem, data intelligence is used to identify effective therapies to stop the addiction, cut down on fraud in prescribing the drugs, as well as in deciding ideal places to build new opioid treatment facilities.

In New Zealand, Big Data is used to predict the risk that a child will be maltreated. It is said that the prediction is as accurate as a mammogram detects breast cancer. These insights allow vulnerable families to be assisted ahead of time, preventing the likelihood of children being physically, emotionally or sexually abused. Further, data intelligence could help centres classify the thousands of calls they receive based on the urgency for those families to be assisted.

Lack of education, whether in terms of limited opportunities or lack of interest, could also be one of the contributors to social problems. While we see Malaysia becoming a more competitive society, the focus on top students obtaining the best results also mean that a lot of others are left neglected.

Also in the US, data is used to develop an “early warning system” to identify students who need the most assistance in terms aid programmes. Further, Big Data is also used to assess the effectiveness of intervention programmes implemented.

However, application of Big Data analytics in social context may not come easy. Challenges come in the form of:

LACK of structured Big Data for social problems. Oftentimes, data are missing, incomplete, or stored in silos. Due to the nature of social data that are messier, more dynamic and complex by virtue of the sum of stakeholders involved, collaborations between various parties to contribute and integrate data is critical to create effective strategies.

SHORTAGE of skilled workforce. As we move rapidly into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the change in the supply and demand for jobs undergoes a similar rapidity. Unfortunately, the immense demand for data specialists does not match the scarce supply.

THREATS imposing ethical issues in relation to data privacy, confidentiality, transparency and prejudice. There have been concerns that Big Data tools would reinforce prejudice and biases by targeting a certain group of people. Privacy and confidentiality of data, which can compromise identity, could be abused if they fall into irresponsible hands. Big Data also requires transparency – unfortunately, more often than not, data is being used, or sold, without people’s knowledge and consent.

While Big Data may be the answer to address the critical social problems Malaysia is facing, the effort in battling the social plague requires support from all parties to ensure the strengthening of data collection as well as the advancement of skilled workforce. Further, collaboration between statisticians, social work practitioners, ethics specialists and experts on disparities is important. Lastly, it is also important to realise that Big Data is a double-edged sword — Big Opportunities, Bigger Responsibilities.

DR MOONYATI MOHD YATID is a senior analyst in the Technology, Innovation, Environment and Sustainability (TIES) Department, Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia

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The State of Big Data 2018

Article ImageBig Data, that corpus of global digital information characterized by velocity, variety, and volume—with contributions from just about every being and machine on the planet—has achieved such a scope and speed of growth that any attempt to quantify it is outdated as soon as it’s measured. If, in the last year, Amazon sold 636 items per second on Amazon Prime Day, YouTube saw 300 hours of video uploaded by users every minute, and Google handled 3.5 billion searches per day, then count on 2018 to bring more of the same.

If 2011 was the year that “data” began answering to “Big Data,” Tamara Dull, director of emerging technologies for SAS’ Best Practices team, says that in 2017, “IoT ripped the ‘big’ right off Big Data’s face.” Dull says, “The story isn’t as much about Big Data, but rather, the Big Data technologies that allow organizations to store and process all kinds of data—structured, semi-structured, and unstructured—at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional technologies.”

That change in emphasis means a permanent shift to figuring out the best way to pull out what’s needed for the people who need it—and doing so in a way that supports their decision making without requiring a data-science degree. It means integrating disparate datasets to create more personalized end-user experiences. As 5G wireless moves closer to fruition, there will be implications for when, where, and how Big Data is accessed by an increasingly mobile userbase. And while pushing data to the edges for faster decision making has its appeal, concerns around data security and privacy abound, especially after a year when data breaches dominated headlines and set consumers on edge.

With Big Data growth getting a boost thanks to such things as your organization’s customer relationship management (CRM), the U.S. president’s Twitter account, and your mother-in-law’s smart thermostat, there’s no time to lose in tackling these challenges.

The Big Data Year in Review

The growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) in commercial and industrial usage is one of the main drivers of Big Data’s expansion in uncharted directions. Stan Lequin, VP of consulting services for Insight, a technology provider of hardware, software, and service solutions to business and government clients, says, “We work with companies that have been around for 200 years, who are now able to pull client endpoint data and analyze it for the first time,” thanks to IoT. “It’s made predictive maintenance and preventative maintenance easier and created new as-a-service possibilities that are entirely new revenue streams.”

Dull sees the IoT having an impact across the board, with manufacturing, transportation, utilities, and healthcare leading the way. She says, “Any organization, regardless of size or shape, can now ask questions like, What does ‘data-driven’ look like for us? What stories are locked inside our data? And can we make money with our data?”

Who gets to dive into the data to answer those questions has changed. “The democratization of Big Data means that we are seeing data push out to the edges,” says Lequin. “Business intelligence for the masses has really picked up over the past year.” He credits an increase in data accessibility within organizations, easier access to external data sources thanks to APIs, and tools that put visualization and analytical capability into the hands of decision makers.

With regard to security concerns in 2017, Dull points out that the devices networked in the IoT don’t necessarily come with robust built-in security, and that puts the onus on consumers. “We can no longer assume that a manufacturer or an app developer is going to do everything they can to make our experience safe and secure. It is now our responsibility as consumers to become amateur security geeks and privacy freaks.” The upside? IoT manufacturers that create safe, secure devices will have a competitive edge.

A Look Ahead at Big Data

Lequin believes that for Big Data in 2018, all the key capabilities are in place, but their adoption and evolution will speed up. “There will be more accessibility; it will be easier to plug in both internal and external data sources—and the database tools with which it’s all done will be easier to work with,” he says. Dull says there’s an urgency to getting the IoT’s contribution to Big Data right. She says, “I’ve been keeping my eye on three ‘S’ developments for IoT: security, standards, and skills. If these three areas don’t get addressed properly—and sooner rather than later—then it’s game over for IoT.”

Personalization will continue to gain importance, according to Craig Smith, CEO and founder of Trinity Insight, an optimization agency that assists ecommerce brands with managing data, digital marketing, and user-experience efforts. “A key part of Big Data is activation in the customer journey,” says Smith. He cites the example of a shopper buying a pair of children’s cleats in-store and providing an email address during the checkout process. Effective personalization might come in the form of an emailed offer for a complimentary ebook on football, a Facebook sidebar ad for football helmets, and a football equipment catalog in the mailbox 12 months later. Due to the complexity of integrating datasets such as account information, web analytics, and search behaviors, Smith says that type of implementation isn’t mainstream yet. “But it will be par for the course in 5 years.”

With the growing importance of mobile usage, all eyes are on 5G, the next-gen network system that will be characterized by higher speeds and capacity and lower latency than existing cellular systems—or at least they should be. “We’re shocked at how much people don’t know about 5G,” says Lequin. “Our expectation is that 5G will be a part of every client conversation we have in late 2019 and 2020. We know it will create a lot more accessibility.”

Finally, Lequin points to one challenge that pre-dates Big Data by approximately 200,000 years: an aversion to change. “Organizations are averse to change; it’s hard to think of as-a-service revenue streams that bring in revenue monthly rather than all at once.” It’s why Lequin says that to get the most value from their Big Data, organizations need one thing above all: blue-sky visionaries who are internal champions and can guide that transformation from analog to digital.

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Overdue Notice: Data Gets the Attention it has Long Deserved

Senior executives who have been making hollow promises about embracing data-driven strategies need to be convinced that now is the time for real action. Here are some ways that data professionals can gain the support they need.

Data professionals in business units and IT have known for years, really decades, how important data is to the success of the business. But for as long as they have known the importance and value of data, they have also tried to convey this to executives to no avail.

Platitude statements such as “Data is an asset” or “We are becoming a data-driven company” have been executive lip service with little to no investment in the data programs themselves. Now the tide has turned and executives from all industries are not only starting to pay attention to the importance of data, they are actively seeking to change and grow the business with data.

I often say you should do one of three things to garner executive attention – make them money, save them money, or keep them out of jail (or the headlines). While it may sound over-simplified, when we look at the top reasons executives are suddenly heeding the importance and value of data, these three drivers underpin them all.

So what finally got their attention?

Security/privacy wake up calls. Often expressed in a conversation that starts with “We don’t want to be the next [fill in the blank with the most recent company in the headlines for a security breach]”, executives share the fear that their name and company could be smeared across the headlines at any point for a personal data mishap. And, it’s not just security breaches that have them worried. A data mishap can be anything from internal misuse to embarrassing data quality errors that shamefully put the company in an unwanted spotlight.

While they may altruistically say that they want to take every effort to protect their customer’s information (and it is likely true), what executives are really concerned about is their personal and brand reputations. Perhaps before you share your next budget proposal or roadmap in the board room, you should consider starting with, “Do you want to be the next inserted from the most recent headline news?” You will have their undivided attention.

Transformation. It’s one of the many hot corporate buzzwords on the street these days. There are several variations we hear executives touting – digital transformation, going digital, modernization, or even couched in terms of classic business transformation rhetoric. They all represent the same sentiment: “We need to do something different with our business. We may not know what it is, but our competitors are doing it so we should too.”

While some leaders will have more of a digital vision than others, they all know that data will be the foundation for their strategy moving forward. What they likely don’t know is how. Identify what transformation means to your CEO or executive team and then help them understand how data will enable it. If you want to use another trendy buzzword with them, introduce digital disruption. Edgy leaders like nothing more than to be disruptive. Exploit it.

Customer experience and expectations. Executives know the business must provide multiple channels to engage customers and meet their varied, ever-changing expectations. Consumers are hyper-aware of and sensitive to how companies use data. Non-transparency of data use, especially in digital channels, introduces the creepy factor and the imminent demise of your customer relationships. As customer experience is noted in almost every analyst’s 2018 top ten list of executive priorities, it is certainly not something to jeopardize.

The four most important factors for consumers when it comes to data use and the customer experience are value, effort, trust and control. They want to recognize value relative to their specific needs in a trusted environment that is easy to navigate and interact where they have the ultimate control over how their data is used. Executives are on board to give consumers what they want, so let them know you can make it happen.

Ethical and social responsibility. Related to wanting to stay out of the headlines and meet customer expectations, executives want to ensure their businesses remain in good standing with consumer perceptions. Companies gain bonus points in the consumer world for initiatives that promote social or environmental wellbeing. Don’t mistake these bonus points as insurance or insulation from damage of data mishaps, but when done right, using data to facilitate good corporate citizenship will help your company stand out when the competitive market is strong. #DataForGood

Innovation. The art of the possible. It is what gets the executive’s juices flowing. My boss sometimes refers to this as “Airline Magazine Syndrome.” Executives get it when they have read a great article on the last leg of their flight home. They get so excited about what can be done with data that they show up in your office with the idea and expectation that it can all be done tomorrow. Don’t stifle their excitement, capitalize on it. They don’t know what they don’t know about data. (Bless their hearts.) But, there is something to the value of the magazine article. It isn’t a roadmap or an architecture diagram. It is a story to which they can relate. They understood it. They connected with it. And they got excited about it. When it comes to innovation that’s exactly what you need to do. Don’t focus on the data part (yet). Engage them in the story, the possibilities and the excitement. Let them sense the impact. Then ease them to understanding that data makes it happen. Everyone listens to a good story. We should. We’ve been doing it since childhood.

So, while it is tempting to mutter under your breath (or maybe even say in your outside voice) that you have been spouting the importance of data for years (and by years, we mean YEARS!), don’t do it. Instead, take full advantage of this new found revelation and get what you have wanted for so long. Nod and smile, and tell them how right they are. Now, go dust off all of those great ideas you’ve had and fast track them to success. It’s finally time. Nobody puts baby data in a corner. Go get ‘em!

Anne Buff is a Business Solutions Manager and Thought Leader for SAS Best Practices, a thought leadership organization at SAS institute. As a speaker and author she specializes in the topics of analytic strategy and culture, governance, change management, and fostering data driven organizations.

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