Data is arguably one of the greatest fruits of the digital transformation wave rocking the world. It has huge potential in transforming businesses and economies.
From data, enterprises can gain a deeper understanding of the customer and the ecosystem in which they operate, information can be used to improve customer experience and cause disruption.
Governments and regulators, on the other hand, can leverage data to improve service delivery and maintain a good environment for doing business.
The volume of data that is generated continues to grow exponentially, as technology evolves and keeps being refined; herein lies an opportunity to make use of this data to enhance competitiveness and deliver the right product or service that has value to the customer.
Sectors such as financial services, telco and government stand to benefit greatly from taking a data-driven approach. In this age of digital banking, a financial services provider can gather data on what customers procure, from where, and their spending habits, among other information to better serve and retain customers as well as cross-sell services to them.
No wonder, data is often compared to what oil was in years gone by.
However, having data is one thing and gaining insight from it another. To understand how data can benefit the organisation you have to understand how best to store, analyse and report it. The value of data is in the insight it delivers. This is the only way to ensure that business leaders can make informed decisions in real time.
From data, trends can be noted, the future can be predicted and abnormal patterns can be noted proactively, flagged and corrective action initiated. Globally, companies that have mastered the art of analysing data are among the best performing and are leading their industries.
In the case of government for instance, data is scattered all over the place. This is the reason applicants for passports are required to submit personal details, which they have supplied on previous occasions when they applied for birth certificates and national identity cards. If all this data was accessible in one place, it would not only make processes more efficient, but also guide many strategic decisions.
Data is a key ingredient for the success of government programmes such as the Big Four agenda championed by the Kenyan government. How would we know that these ambitious targets have been met if there is no framework for monitoring key performance indicators? Data provides a great opportunity for doing this.
Unfortunately, the case of bits and pieces of data in silos is the bane of many public and private organisations on the continent. Africa needs to own its data and generate insight from it in order to stay competitive on the global stage.
This would be a huge step towards ensuring that the continent benefits from its resources, including data, which is not the case at the moment.
Unless Africa moves with speed to look into ways of benefiting from the massive data it generates, people from the rest of the world will continue harvesting it, gleaning insight and taking advantage.
Big data is the engine that can enable analysis of massive volumes of data and generate insight.But there exists a gap between the demand for data analysis skills and the available professionals.
Organisations have also not fully embraced this thinking to gain insights from their data and invested in the right technology, such as cloud computing that facilitates effective use of data. This calls for a strategic investment in technology and the appropriate human resources.
Effective use of data, in the public and private sector alike, can enhance transparency and strengthen the fight against graft and fraud. Many organisations today are reactive, waiting for reports long after things started going wrong.
With big data, red flags are identified and addressed in real-time, without the need to wait for an audit several years later. This proactively prevents graft by analysing patterns and kicking off investigations.
In these different ways, data makes all the difference. It is the engine that will drive the next phase of growth for businesses and economies.
The writer is Oracle’s Managing Director for Kenya Hub covering East, Central and West Africa.