• Melarka Williams

Data is the New Oil: Why Jamaican Organizations need to embrace 'Big Data'

Updated: Jan 31, 2019

What is the most valuable resource in the world? It’s not unreasonable to think it’s oil since

the health of the global economy often hinges on its cost per barrel. However, ‘black gold’

was dethroned as the world’s most valuable resource last year by big data, according to The

Economist. Researchers say it is the new driver of growth and change, creating “new

infrastructure, new businesses, new monopolies, new politics and—crucially—new


What is big data and why is it so valuable?

‘Big data’ is a term that describes the large volume of digital information collected daily on

people’s behaviours and attitudes via everything from the online forms we fill out, the media

and services to which we subscribe, and social media sites and apps. These platforms

collect huge volumes of valuable data daily, and companies are willing to pay top dollar for

this information because it can be mined for gold in the form of patterns, trends and

associations that analysts are using use to help businesses make better decisions and

strategic moves.

Technological advances have made it easier for companies to collect and analyze data. The

more data a company collects and crunches, the better it knows its customers and potential

customers; the more targeted it can make its products or services, and the more customers

it can retain and bring in—which means more money in its coffers. That’s across all

industries—not just big-name tech companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple—and in just

about every country.

Technology and Society - The Jamaican Snapshot

Many agencies and businesses are still in the wait-and-see phase of the technology

acceptance model, trying to determine whether big data is actually useful and pondering its

ease-of-use. Meanwhile, technology companies in Kingston and other locales across the

country, especially those helmed by younger CEOs, are leading the charge. There has

certainly been an upsurge of technology jobs, encompassing everyone from the app

designer who works from home to quality assurance specialists in the BPO sector to digital

media companies that produce ads for the big commercial entities based on insights into

customer behaviour.

Technology and Society - The Jamaican Snapchat

Big data across various sectors in Jamaica:

Consumer goods and services - Jamaica is notorious for less-than-stellar customer

service at establishments from government offices to fast food restaurants, so local

companies should be rejoicing over this news. Big data can help them keep their ears to the

ground for continuous customer feedback, which can be used to make improvements in

service. It can also help with developing marketing strategies, streamlining transaction


Education The increased use of technology in education—with eLearning Jamaica’s

Tablets in Schools project, for instance—can help educators identify at-risk students, ensure

students are making satisfactory progress, and even shape or change curricula based on

data-driven insights they collect from the students’ work on these devices.

Healthcare Data such as patient records and prescription information is a goldmine of

potential insights that can help hospitals improve patient care as well as identify potential

interventions and cost-saving opportunities. There is even scope for its use in developing

medications and new medical devices.

Manufacturing The local manufacturing sector continues to struggle amidst high

importation, so any help it can get should be appreciated and snapped up. Analyzing data

can help reduce processing flaws, improve product quality, increase efficiency, minimize

waste, and save time and money.

In the rush to use big data, it’s important for these entities to remember security and protect

people’s sensitive information as much as possible—and as required by law. We have seen

fallouts from Facebook’s data scandal and any such breach will result not only in a loss of

money but an erosion of credibility, which can ruin an organization completely.

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