Why data opens up a world of opportunity

The volume of data created, captured, copied, and consumed worldwide is set to almost double in the next three years.  And with almost 50 times more data on Earth today than in 2010, there has been an exponential growth of data in our lives, leading to opportunity as well as ethical questions for organisations to consider. 

Why? Because while data when used in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and predictive modelling could lead to us incredible breakthroughs, such as identifying cancer at its early stages or measuring carbon emissions more accurately, it could similarly be used by bad actors to prevent progress in these areas. 

And so, the first thing we must consider is that while data is often a revenue generation tool, a truly people-centred data economy means achieving impact by building trust between organisations and all of their stakeholders about how their data is used. 

Education and empowerment 

 Where data has developed a negative reputation is through those bad actors, who misuse data for their own benefit rather than for the good of all, and do so in an opaque way. Transparency is therefore key, and organisations who clearly lay out how they will use their customers’ data and why this will be to their benefit, are more likely to garner loyalty. 

As technologists, it is our responsibility to educate the public about this and help them to understand that if something is positioned as ‘free’, it never really is, because they are paying with data. That can be beneficial, but at the very least it is something the customer must be aware of. 

Ultimately, powering success with data for our society and our economy is about trusting organisations to do the right thing.

And while education at the front end will build trust, there is an equally important role for education in the back end. Organisations must be clear with their employees about what is OK to do with data and what would count as manipulation. 

Regulation is central to ensuring people’s data is secured and organisations are motivated to protect it. GDPR, rolled out in 2018 across Europe, has not stifled innovation or data collection but empowered both organisations and their consumers with much greater levels of control. For the latter group, they began to truly understand the data they had given away and how to remove consent for that if they preferred.  

The upside of that on the other end was organisations being left with more focused datasets, individuals far more likely to be interested in what they could offer. 


Building the right team 

Regulation does not mean limitation and with the right datasets, the opportunities of innovation increase. But only with the right people and skillsets to utilise this data in a positive way.  

This is why it is so crucial for organisations to hire a Chief Digital or Technology Officer/Head of Data, who can oversee this, building a team that understands the opportunity and a culture that does not compromise on ethics. 

To continue maximising the positive potential of data, we need to find the truth in it.  

The role of data scientists is of additional value in maximising the potential of data. Data in unqualified hands puts consumers’ rights and valuable assets at risk. The data science discipline is a unique blend of strong mathematical and statistical skills, with an appreciation for technology and more importantly, domain knowledge, helping organisations to communicate the decisions they make about data usage and understand the limitations. 

Ultimately, powering success with data for our society and our economy is about trusting organisations to do the right thing. And you absolutely need the right skillsets in place to be able to do this. 


What data really delivers 

But when we talk about getting data right, what do we mean? If we want to publicise the benefits data can provide, we must be able to speak with clarity and confidence about the way in which it can shape the future.  

It is in organisations’ interests to invest in R&D and create new models, leading to the innovations that will transform our societies: smart cities that drive our sustainable goals and lead people towards more fulfilling lives; healthcare solutions that can predict and prepare against life-changing illnesses, and help us to understand our bodies to prevent them; digital twins and prototyping that can reduce industrial waste and drive environmental benefits, while reducing costs for organisations.  

It also means businesses can innovate their customer experience in favour of personalisation, driving brand loyalty and return on investment. 

In short, it is about driving better outcomes and decisions for people and the planet. 

Data has been described as the “new oil” in terms of its value. And like oil, it must be refined to be of use. Each data point is a fragile asset and we have to value the human story behind it. 


How we make progress 

To continue maximising the positive potential of data, we need to find the truth in it.  

The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, agreed between the European Parliament and EU governments, will look to make organisations more accountable for how they present their data. From 2024, large companies will be required to publicly disclose information on the way they operate and manage social and environmental risks. The proposal aims to address shortcomings in the existing rules on disclosure of non-financial information. 

We must also consider what the world we would like to live in 20-30 years down the line should look like. Technologies such as 5G, the Edge, Internet of Things and even AI are continuing to develop. So, how much further and faster can we go? The speed of genome sequencing for example, has significantly accelerated in recent years. In the life sciences, genome analysis is a key application, due in part to the large cost reduction of data collection from advances in next-generation sequencing (NGS). 

It has been said that most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years. The way in which data has exponentially grown by 50x in the past 12 years and what that has meant for innovation, shows us that there are possibilities we cannot even imagine. 

There will always be risks with this growth, but we can reduce these by increasing the trust between organisations and their stakeholders, demonstrating the reward instead and realising that people are always at the end of this – whether as data subjects, operators or guardians. 

Dell Technologies and Intel® are innovating together for today and tomorrow. From client to data centre, to Cloud to the Edge, we are collaborating to drive next-generation capabilities with a comprehensive portfolio of trusted solutions. Data allows us to make better decisions, that much is true. Now, through a combination of empowerment and education, it is about ensuring that we tell a better story about how it allows us to drive progress.  

About the Author: Tim Loake

Tim is the vice president of the Infrastructure Solutions Group for U.K. at Dell Technologies. Tim is a technologist at heart and is passionate about solving organisations’ problems through the creative use of IT systems. Tim’s team is focused on providing organisations with the ability to make their technology transition as seamless as it can possibly be. Tim wants to ensure that our customers have the very best experience when designing, deploying, and using Dell Technologies infrastructure products and services to achieve their goals.