By Dan Kwach, General Manager East Africa Data Centre.
Business data has grown exponentially in recent years, but its usage in driving forward businesses had been relatively limited, until the dawn of the Big Data revolution.
Now, more companies are moving to analyse the data they collect – be it on what we buy in the supermarket, or where or how often we park in the city, or how many times we research flight prices before we book, or even what age group is most likely to load phone credit at 3 am either to buy an internet data package, bulk SMS package or for calling.
The power of all this data can enable better product creation, more accurate business forecasting, the mitigation of business risks, and more efficient and streamlined marketing and business systems.
According to market research company Dresner Advisory Services, 53 per cent of companies used Big Data Analytics in 2017, with telecoms and financial services industries leading the way, at 87 per cent and 76 per cent respectively.
The need to analyse huge volumes of data is prompting the creation of new facilities and tools in Kenya. Last month, for example, Liquid Telecom Kenya partnered with Strathmore Business School (SBS), the graduate business school of Strathmore University, to launch a new data analytics centre focused on data-driven research and practices for African businesses.
Liquid Telecom Kenya is providing the analytics centre with dedicated rack space and colocation services at the East Africa Data Centre (EADC), which is the region’s largest and only Tier III-certified data centre.
It is also establishing a direct fibre link between the SBS campus and EADC in Nairobi, to enable swift handling of the huge volumes of data needed in data analytic services.
But, what is big data analytics and what exactly happens in these analytic centres?
One misconception is that Big Data Analytics could be a violation of personal data. In fact, Big Data Analytics reviews data loads in thousands of gigabytes to detect patterns and characteristics, and has no interest or capacity to identify any one individual’s behaviour.
Data mining is designed to find out whether more people, say, shop at 6 pm or at 7 pm – it does not chase personal data or metadata, which is removed because it is both irrelevant and burdensome.
Big Data analysis, instead, concentrates on delivering powerful insights for businesses. A good example is Google Trends, which provides insights on the popularity of a brand by analysing branded content on websites and social media.
With so much potential and so many business benefits, the Big Data market is set to grow rapidly – by an average 11.7 per cent a year, to $203bn by 2030, according to market intelligence firm International Data Corporation (IDC).
Within this market, raw and value-added data will be increasingly bought and sold, with enterprises developing ways of valuing their data. Indeed, the monetization of data will become a major source of revenues, with the world set to create 180 zettabytes of data (or 180 trillion gigabytes) by 2025.
However, such huge data flows present enormous storage and processing challenges.
To meet this demand, the Liquid Telecom Group has established state-of-the-art data centres in Johannesburg, Cape Town and in Nairobi, with a combined 6,800 square metres of rack space.
The group has also built a high-speed fibre infrastructure across Africa to prepare for the data boom.
In all, Liquid Telecom is driving the adoption and uptake of Big Data Analysis as the next ‘must have’ strategy for any business to run smoothly and smartly, enabling users to increase sales and beat the competition in a new era of multiple tools and methods for the extraction, analysis and presentation of data.
The ultimate winners will be businesses, consumers, start-ups, and millennials pursuing computer systems and related courses, with software coding, statistics and data analytics increasingly becoming lucrative disciplines, especially when combined with machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) knowledge.
Ultimately, the future workforce will be able to create applications in real time that facilitate the creation of groundbreakingproducts and services.
Consumers, on their part, will enjoy high-quality products and services that are specifically targeted to their needs and behaviour, with enhanced availability and convenience.
For instance, fruit and vegetable consumers may get well-alternated varieties for each day of the week, informed by insights from consumer buying trends in a particular downtown store that is uniquely stocked for its customers buying habits, unlike the store’s uptown branch.
Finally, through an in-depth analysis and understanding of their target markets, entrepreneurs in Kenya and Africa will be able to fine-tune their business proposals, consequently securing investor funding that is critical for start-ups, and thus creating more jobs for the continent.