What Should We Know About Big Data?

“Big data” refers to large volumes of data that are collected from both the inside and outside environments surrounding certain individuals and organizations. There is no clear definition of big data, except that it contains a large amount of data; there are, however, commercial definitions developed by businesses who sell access to big data for profits. We should be concerned about big data because we do not know how information about our lives contained in these data sets will be used by businesses or other interested organizations, or how access to this information will impact our lives in the future. Likewise, businesses should be concerned about how competitors will use this data to obtain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

What Led Us to the Development of Big Data?
In the past, data used to be stored in small folders and file cabinets, but now, with the advent of big data, they are generally stored in some sort of “cloud.” The development and commercialization of digital computing, networking, communication, and storage technology and their affordability for consumers has led to both the formation and growth of big data.

Today, many of us receive hundreds of e-mails every day, and thousands are stored in our mailboxes. We take pictures at every opportunity we get and store them on our phones, computers, tablets, or clouds. Our music libraries are also stored in the same way. As individuals, we can create our own personal sets of big data. Similarly, businesses can generate big data and refine it into information that will help them to understand customer behavior and promote products or services. Generally, the affordability of technology and the thrust toward collecting more data in conjunction with the objectives of realizing both personal and business benefits has led to the increased use and proliferation of big data.

How Does Our Data Become Part of Big Data?
Data are created by people around the world who are buying products or utilizing services from both brick-and mortar-stores and online businesses. Data are also created when people participate in social organizations, interact in social networks, live in local communities, and engage with government agencies. The changes and interactions of people in the economic, financial, political, and technological environments around the world are also observed and recorded, and all of this information becomes part of big data.

Who Contributes to Big Data?
Every day that you use digital computing technology, you are contributing to big data. It has become an important part of our personal lives. The use of digital technology such as computers, tablets, mobile phones, cash registers, gas pumps at gas stations, credit processing devices, e-commerce sites, and other computing devices result in the generation of billions of bits of data every second. Big data also increases when we use the internet, our phones, or any other digital device that connects to a communication or social network.

In other words, every time you use a computer, go on the internet, look for something in a search engine, visit and interact with others on social networks, or shop online, you are creating digital data. All your activities may be recorded in some way and stored in a digital form by social networks or other businesses, and this information becomes part of the big data repository. The analysis of trends in big data could therefore be useful in one’s own personal life for setting career objectives and accomplishing life goals; more specifically, it could even be used for personal financial or healthy lifestyle planning.

Who is Paying for Big Data?
We are paying for computing devices such as computers, cell phones, telephone services, and internet services. Our personal use of computing devices for visiting websites, buying goods or services online, and interacting on social networks creates more data. If there is a case in which we need access to this data for personal use from the sites on which we have created it, we may have to pay a fee. When we buy products or services, chances are that we are paying for the same data again because businesses may have used big data for marketing and passed the cost on to us. What this means is that we are the ones paying for big data without knowing how each business will use our data or how this use will impact us in the future.

Why are Businesses Interested in Big Data?
Businesses are interested in learning about our (the customer’s) behavior, our business transactions, and anything else that we are involved in so that they can find ways to entice us into buying their products or services. Big data may therefore include structured data, referring to information on what we bought, how much we spent, and how often we buy certain items or services; it may also include unstructured data, such as online searches we conducted, random visits to websites, or video clips we watched on the web. In addition to understanding consumer behavior, businesses could use such data for pricing, promotional determination, achieving competitive advantages, hiring employees, and selecting suppliers.

The activity between businesses and their surrounding environments contributes to the creation of big data. The transactions between business entities such as suppliers and service providers in conjunction with environmental data such as information on the economy, technology, and politics also become part of big data. Businesses also use collected and stored data with other business partners by arranging fees or shared agreements for exchange to increase their customer bases and revenues.

Five Reasons We Should be Concerned About Big Data

  1. Big data is getting bigger every day, and it will continue to grow if it remains an affordable information resource for generating growth in business.
  2. Big data is created by our participation, but we do not have control over how it will be used by businesses, employers, and government agencies.
  3. We are paying to create and use big data, and paying again as part of the price for purchasing products or utilizing services.
  4. Big data is created by almost everyone on the planet, and we could reap the benefits if we learn how to access and analyze it.
  5. Big data is a buzz word in the technology industry entailing the growth of B2B transactions, but there is no evidence of long-term social or economic benefits of storing such data.

© 2017 Mohammed R. Ahmed
Ahmed, M.R. (2017). What Should We Know About Big Data?
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