Big Data – What is it and Why is it Important – Part 1


Are you “Big Data” Ready? What it is and Why it Matters?


Everywhere one turns today, we hear more and more about the “Big Data Revolution.” At all levels of industry and society– healthcare, media, IT, transportation, commerce, and even politics – the expression ‘Big Data’ is used to describe major transformations in the way information is captured, processed, and disseminated. The term “Big Data” has become a major global topic of interest with the recent (and ongoing) Eric Snowden debacle as well. But this is nothing new. For several years now, in fact, Big Data has been an emerging area of global interest. In January 2011, the World Economic Forum released a new report which made the following claim: “Personal data will be the new ‘oil’ – a valuable resource of the 21st century. It will emerge as a new asset class touching all aspects of society.” Indeed, the idea of data as a commodity on the same level as gold, silver, oil, and precious metals is quite staggering, but reflects the realities of the global age in which we live.


With so much publicity today around Big Data we need to break it down to see what it really means. Is it all buzz and hype or is there really something behind this movement that is revolutionary?  If Big Data is really a trillion dollar industry then it’s paramount that we understand what the current trends and realities are in this arena. We want to ensure that small and medium business owners get well-positioned to grow their clientele with this new asset tool.


The Internet as the Engine for Big Data Growth (1995-Present)


To begin to understand the enormity of Big Data, we really need to take a brief (and I mean brief!) look at the growth of the interest since the mid-90s. As a symptom of Big Data, please realize that since there’s so much information out there, folks don’t want to get bogged down in minutiae. So take the following as kind of a fast track to understanding history of Big Data.



Big Data - What is it and Why is it Important - Part 1


















If you look at the following chart, you’ll see the exponential rise in the use of the Internet from a relatively small handful of users to nearly 1.6 billion (as of 2010):




Big Data - What is it and Why is it Important - Part 1





































With the era of the mid to late 1990s, the Internet provided enormous new opportunities for commerce and business. Despite the promises and perils of this new global web, Google demonstrated soon enough after it started in 1998 that society was ready and waiting for a new way to organize the world’s information.


The next decade saw the emergence of the social media and social networking through major portals such as MySpace (2003), Facebook (2004), and Twitter (2006). These tools and platforms introduced a whole new paradigm of real time communication and interaction at all levels of society. The ability to update one’s personal information through a ‘tweet’ or ‘Facebook’ post meant a level of interactivity beyond a mere blog or forum post. The emergence of Web 2.0 in the mid-2000s represented a major technological and culture shift as the worldwide web began to grow up. Like a giant brain, the internet was no longer just a huge encyclopedia (aka, the “Internet of information”) but now a major tool of society discourse . . . the “Internet of people.”


Come back tomorrow for the next article in this series.