Beyond the data hype

Wallscope Co-Founder David Eccles shares his thoughts on the challenges of uncertainty and the importance of education in the new data economy. 

The fast pace of change across the technological landscape raises a number of issues for organisations. There is a lot of expectation and hype around new technologies that draws people in. But that hype can also turn people away from the available solutions, reducing the scope for innovation. 

New technologies can offer solutions to the challenges we face as a society, yet we often see organisations are unsure how best to interact with the opportunities they bring. Some pepper their conversations with terms such as AI, Big Data or Data Lakes without really understanding what these technologies are or what they deliver. That is understandable as the pace of change is so fast – and it is accelerating.

Some organisations are more tech savvy but often they move too quickly to the solution, losing sight of the outcomes sought. This can mean they fail to build the consensus for real change.

The technologies are not the problem in themselves. It is how they are perceived and how they are being positioned within marketing messages - and this should be challenged. This is a leadership function which is associated with risk management. 

We should all be equipped to ask better questions across a range of settings in the data economy, and to challenge key perceptions and statements. Education and training can help to ensure data science is better understood and communicated across all levels and sectors.

"Data is the new oil"

This is a great allusion to value, but it is a very limited statement. It needs to be challenged and developed on many fronts.

History tells us the increase in the value of oil was driven by a range of factors. It is a commodity, whose value increases as its use increases and the supply dwindles. As a commodity, oil is integrated within a wider carbon economy; and is part of a wider industrial ecosystem. We also know oil is a pollutant.

Data provides information. It can be used to support positive change and defer negative impacts in many areas. It can be transformed, socialised and democratised. There is a cost to using data, but we also need to better understand and articulate the value it has. In other words it is not useful to say that data is the new oil.

Post-carbon economies can be improved by the use of data, but this will not happen overnight. Expectations need to be better managed so that the value of key emergent technologies and data is better realised. Gaining consensus will be better served by managing expectations and avoiding hype. 

Last year we started to debate these issues through our Data Science Skills Development Symposium. If you want to learn more about this or our programme of educational events please contact me: david.eccles@wallscope.co.uk.

David Eccles