Data is the natural resource of the 21st century. It is creating fundamental changes for the better in the global economic and societal landscape. Improved health care, enhanced effective water and energy management, more accurate weather prediction, more efficient supply chains and improved traffic flows are just some of the benefits of ‘big data’.
This data-driven innovation is happening for three reasons. First, the amount of data that we produce is staggering: every two days we are creating the equivalent of all the data generated through human history up to 2003. Second, amazing advances in information technology have given us powerful analytics tools that enable us to mine data to extract valuable knowledge, understanding and insight. Third, the Internet is making both big data, and the tools to make sense of it, widely available around the world.
Despite all of this, data is in danger of becoming demonised. While it is critical that governments address the issue of lawful access to data, we must not allow this debate to preclude the tremendous benefits of data.
There is much rhetoric in play that misrepresents the full story about data. The truth is that to realize the promise of big data does not require sacrificing personal privacy. It is not an “either / or” choice. There is a need to get this message out, to educate people about the benefits of big data and to demonstrate that we can leverage this new natural resource while also protecting privacy.