Unfolding plans 57 – Big Data. It is bigger than you think.

My first meeting as chair of the Society of ICT Managers (North East) went well enough.  There wasn’t a spare seat in the house, we got through the agenda, we finished on time and lunch was nice.  We tried something new this time which made a big difference.  It was Graham’s idea to theme the meetings, that is to have a single subject with speakers that bring a different perspective.  It gave an added emphasis to the event.

The chosen theme was Big Data.  Our own Steve brought a public sector perspective, Simon, Cliff and Jacquie from Hitachi gave us a private sector view and Steve gave an academic understanding.  (I wouldn’t normally mention commercial organisations by name but it would become too obvious in the context of what happens to bother trying to be discrete.)

I’ve covered our approach often enough but it is quite different from most of the market.  Rather than attempting to find the answers to questions in the data we have, we’re trying to show the beauty and excitement that lies within.  We are going to try and use this to enthuse our senior management colleagues into coming forward with potential projects.

I had already met with Steve from Newcastle University and it was good to hear him speak again.  He started off with some amazing facts and figures that painted the background under the title ‘Why data matters and big data matters more’.  Here are the ones that I could write down:  there will be fifty billion connected devices by 2020 and seven trillion data producing sensors by 2017; there are as many bits of data today as there are stars in the universe; every two days we create as much data as we have done from the dawn of civilisation until 2003 and; there will be a ninety two per cent rise in data scientist jobs over the next five years.

That’s Big Data.  It is bigger than you think.

He went on to tell us about the University’s Digital Institute that is transforming research and development through digital technologies, using cloud computing for big data analytics, as well as the regional data exchange, which is funded by the Digital Catapult. He drew a parallel with how the North East was built on coal by extracting the raw resource, applying skills and innovation to create valued products which gave rise to the industrial revolution. We can be at the vanguard of another revolution by extracting the raw resource in our rich seams of data.  Coals to Newcastle indeed.

Hitachi told us of their experiences in getting data projects off the ground in other local authorities and how to build the business case.  Leading with technology can be seen as a negative and a far better approach is to use the technology as an enabler to address the services’ issues.

I was really interest though in their story of the new Hitachi Rail factory that is opening in Aycliffe.  This exciting project is of interest in so many ways, jobs for the region, huge supply chain opportunities and trains.

ICT and trains, now there’s a heady combination.

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