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Data – Options and Possibilities

The beauty of the internet, and therefore by association access to data, is in its unpredictability. The web’s openness means that new innovations appear online every day. Some succeed and others don’t, and successes spawn further innovation. Two years ago, for example, very few people would have predicted the role that Twitter and YouTube played in the Iranian elections. Even so, as we look ahead, some things are clear. 

One certainty is that information discovery will continue to get better. Wouldn’t it be good to have a system that asks questions as well as answers them? A recent article in the Economist described how this could revolutionise innovation as we know it – citing a research chemist at Pfizer as an illustrative example.  How cool would it be if he could find solutions to one of the mysteries of science, perhaps cure a disease, simply by asking the right question of the web?  A semantic search engine that has read (and understood) all the relevant literature, interrogated the patent libraries and medical records, and studied the chemical theory, etc, might well suggest workable solutions. Science fiction? Perhaps, but imagine the value of a system that understands the relationships between information in different corpora, created with vastly different uses in mind.

It also seems clear that access to data will help to widen the pool of potential creative ideas – a step on from crowd sourcing towards democratized innovation. Think of Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia written by its users, or iStockphoto allowing amateur photographers to earn money selling their pictures alongside professionals. Each combines cheap and widely available tools to allow talented people to make the most of the Internet’s distribution efficiency, and this trend is only beginning.

Closer to hand is the migration of computer applications from the desktop to the web. In this shift to cloud computing, more and more of our personal and professional lives will be spent using our web browsers.  That means browsers will have to be stable, powerful, and above all secure.

Also apparent today is the role mobile phones will play in improving access to the Internet (and therefore to data).  There are already nearly 4 billion mobile phones in use today around the world, and over 80% of humanity lives within range of a mobile network. At the same time, the cost of web-ready phones continues to fall. Computers are getting smaller and cheaper, and the next generation of mobile networks will improve access speeds. Already, net-books can cost as little as $200, making them cheap enough to be given away with mobile-broadband contracts in some countries.

Even when mobile access becomes universal, there will still be real challenges connecting some places to the larger Internet. There is reason for hope, though: a series of new cables are in the works to improve Africa’s connectivity with the rest of the world, increasing capacity and reducing the cost of internet access. The first of these, the SEACOM cable, eastern Africa’s first modern submarine cable, was completed in July 2009. In coming years, some places in Africa may well have higher speed connections than parts of Europe.

Doubling the number of people online will have an amazing impact on innovation. More people (with more diverse experiences than ever before) will be able to contribute to the innovation happening online. That’s a very exciting prospect.

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Comments

16 Responses to “Data – Options and Possibilities”
  1. Wortkshop Feedback says:

    I disagree with the sharing of data being the answer. We need more efficiency and greater relevance incorporated in to the system as we focus on information not knowledge. Efficiency, timeliness and relevance is critical and having a sea of data is without value. We need more than search engine technology and to focus on information arbitration.

  2. Workshop Feedback says:

    Over the next five years plus, as 3 billion will have access to the internet, the world will shift to the cloud and business will want even more cheap and fast information: better, more, bigger, faster will be key as scale increases significantly. As service provider interconnectivity improves, we will shift from today’s closed silos to open interconnectivity that needs global hubs. Access to speedier information can be at the cost of personal privacy. The relationship with searching is too transactional – users are seen as marketing opportunities. So, people will increasingly ask ‘what am I signing up to?’

  3. Workshop Feedback says:

    I see that the Net Neutrality debate will be key in the next decade.

  4. Workshop Feedback says:

    There is a direct link between information and value. Clearly you need a profile about yourself for public/business access but there is no need to share everything with everyone. We need to have tools that are simple to use and that will allow search to be tailored against profiles.

  5. Workshop Feedback says:

    Universal access is a myth of perfect information.

  6. Workshop Feedback says:

    Within the next decade, I see that there will be so much information shared and freely available, that we will be able to create totally new information infrastructures. If, for example, we take the datasets associated with the human genome, then we can in principle create a complete world family tree: We can have a search engine of the world’s DNA and we will be able to see how we are all individually related and so, as a consequence, how we seek to behave towards each other may change.

  7. Workshop Feedback says:

    The point of view looks at the world from the inside of Google out. Far more interesting is not what information Google can provide, but how people will make choices and communicate. This will redefine communication for brands.

  8. Workshop Feedback says:

    Individuals will need more education to use and exploit data in a more sophisticated way. This is less about technology and more to do with moral and citizenship issues. This will, for example, be seen in how we manage our public profile and search history.

  9. Workshop Feedback says:

    What about corporate data? The agility and ability of corporations to serve their customers is largely driven by access to and the use of data. Data integration is a growing challenge. The future will see more agile corporations, more de-centralisation and new IT infrastructures. We must become better at integrating data across ‘domains’ for new insights to be available.

  10. Workshop Feedback says:

    The use of data is very much influenced by the generation gap between those providing the infrastructure and the majority of the younger people using it. Therefore the cultural dimension is key. One example could be transparency – where greater visibility leads to greater trust.

  11. Workshop Feedback says:

    An increasing issue will be machine to machine interaction and the machine interaction with data. We will have more and more different levels and types of data – from sensors and the environment.

  12. Workshop Feedback says:

    As we can see with Google and China today, federating, linking and joining the owners of data will be pivotal in the future

  13. Workshop Feedback says:

    I see that there will be so much information shared and freely available, that we will be able to create totally new information infrastructures. If, for example, we take the datasets associated with the human genome, then we can in principle create a complete world family tree: We can have a search engine of the world’s DNA and we will be able to see how we are all individually related and so, as a consequence, how we seek to behave towards each other may change.

  14. Workshop Feedback says:

    It is really scary that so many of us now rely on Google for our information and insight. I ask whether in 2020 will Google still dominate the data world. Surely there is room for another option. One that we trust more – maybe even something from Apple?

  15. Workshop Feedback says:

    If we are looking to capture more information, we need multiple sources, not just a single one. For real insights on the world we cannot trust just one search engine.

  16. Workshop Feedback says:

    What people believe, who they trust and what they see as credible will increasingly be a judgement based on what information is available. This will increasingly be not just the information that companies and organisations put out into the media maelstrom, but also what people say about them. Brand engagement in the future will be just as much about how others talk about your brand and what you say – so genuine trust is paramount.

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