The importance of being earnest about big data

We are deluged in big data. We have become more adept, however, at collecting it than in making sense of it. The companies, individuals and governments that become the most adept at data analysis are doing more than find the signal in the noise: they are creating a strategic capability. Why?

“After Eisenhower, you couldn’t win an election without radio.

After JFK, you couldn’t win an election without television.

After Obama, you couldn’t win an election without social networking.

I predict that in 2012, you won’t be able to win an election without big data.”

Alistair Croll, founder of bitcurrent.

In November 2012, we’ll know if his prediction came true.

All this week, I’ll be reporting from Santa Clara at the so-called “data Woodstock” that is the Strata Conference. Croll is its co-chair. You can tune in to the O’Reilly Media livestream for the conference keynotes.

For some perspective on big data and analytics in government, watch IBM’s Dave McQueeney at last year’s Gov 2.0 Summit:

Or watch how Hans Rosling makes big data dance in this TED Talk:

About Alex Howard

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.

2 Responses

  1. Tim

    You haven’t been able to win an election without “big data” for at least 10 years – fine grained census and demographic GIS based data was freed from specialist use (microfiche or mainframes and teams of programmers) in the late 80’s.

    You may have more small sources these days, and it may be quicker to access, but political parties have been using this stuff for a long time. Similarly companies have been using this stuff to plan ad campaigns, locate stores, plan market entries etc for a long time.

    There may be more data sources around these days, and they’re easier to integrate, but I’d guess census data is still the fundamental key (or at least the basis for further derivations), and it has the advantage of being broadly comparable for studying trends over time (unlike many other sources).

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