Much has been said about big data, but the real question to be answered is whether the technology is being used by company, and what value it offers. Analyst Steven Ambrose points out that 50-billion devices will soon be connected to the Internet, adding to the wealth of data.
In South Africa, the Internet has arrived, with 21 940Gbps of access, and it’s set to increase. Even more fascinating, says Ambrose, are the networks carrying that data into cities and homes.

We live in a world of realtime data, he says, with massive pressure to be realtime. There has been exponential growth in connectivity, from fibre to other technologies.

“The problem in much of Africa is that it’s very new to us,” Ambrose says. “All of this is generating massive amounts of data, much of which never gets seen – this is structured and unstructured.”

In the UK, about 75% of companies are investing in big data projects. In South Africa, however, only about 25% are investing in big data of any sort. In the UK, companies believe they are using old data, whereas in South Africa almost all are using historical data.

In the UK, 69% of companies lack the infrastructure for big data analysis. South African companies surveyed believe there are no infrastructure limitations. Another big factor is that UK companies believe siloed business processes are an inhibitor to analytics in realtime.

In South Africa this is not a factor yet. In summary, Ambrose believes many companies are seeing big data as a buzzword not a technology that can help them run their businesses more profitably.

While companies do use data analytics, much of it is looking backwards, with very little predictive analysis, To a large degree, big data analysis is not being used to inform business decisions, to drive and improve business strategies.

“That is a real pity, because IT is seen as a cost centre. Business often doesn’t see the work that can be done to generate the insights that could be found in the data.”

IDC tells us that only 0,5% of the world’s data is being mined for value. In addition, companies can’t win by locking up their data, Ambrose says, they need to put it out there and use it to realise their goals.