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Sun 31 Mar 2019 04:40 PM

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Why big data may not be the new oil

Experts at the Arabian Business Technology Forum say that each business will have to find ways to use the vast amounts of data they collect to improve their business operations

Why big data may not be the new oil
Nadim Najjar, the managing director of Refinitiv Photo by Jessica Samson/ITP Images

Businesses of various kinds will each have to find unique ways to collect and better process big data in the future to unlock its value, according to experts speaking at the Arabian Business Technology Forum.

Speaking at the event, Nadim Najjar, the managing director of Refinitiv - formerly the financial and risk business of Thomson Reuters - said he believes that the often-used maxim that data is “the new oil” are overblown.

“Oil drive the industrial economy and data is driving the digital economy,” he said. “But that’s as far as the similarities go.”

Najjar added that there are “huge” differences between the two, with data being more variable, cheaper to ‘extract’, store and move. The wide range of uses for data, he added, make it stand apart from oil as a commodity.

“Oil is a single use....data you can use over and over,” he said. “The same piece of data can be used for so many different outcomes, and it doesn’t end. That’s a very critical aspect of the difference.”

Looking to the future, Hajjar said that he believes that big data will increasingly be used in the medical and healthcare sector, as well as by governments to ‘patrol or manipulate social behaviour’ and for security purposes such as counter-terrorism.

New sources

SAP MENA head of platform and technology Praveer Singh, in a panel discussion on the topic, said that “new sources of data will be vital” in the future.

As an example, Singh said that he believes geospatial data drawn from satellites will increasingly be put to use in the retail and delivery sector.

“Imagine your a retailer and you’re supposed to ship goods that have a certain shelf life. If you are not able to optimise your routes, chances are you will lose out,” he said. “Geospatial data lets us analyse the traffic situation and correlate it with factory data and make sure your products are reaching [within their shelf life].”

Singh added that “each business will a unique use for big data”.

“There are businesses that have traditionally been in the manufacturing sector that has so much operational data sitting with them,” he added. “It’s all about customer experience...you need to use your operational data and you need to correlate your businesses processes....coming with a pre-templated use case is not what businesses require.”

According to a forecast from the International Data Corporation (IDC), worldwide revenue for big data and business analytics is expected to reach $260 billion in 2022 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.9 percent.

In 2018, the banking, manufacturing, professional services and government sectors collectively accounted for nearly half of the estimated $81 billion in revenue from big data.

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