Big data for an informed Africa

Read time 1min 50sec

Big data is basically small data in disparate places being brought together to make something big.

But for Africa, big data is a little different.

This was the word from Julius Akinyemi, entrepreneur at the MIT Media Lab, speaking on the opening morning of the SA Innovation Summit taking place in Cape Town this week.

While the basis is still the same, some of the little things that we would be adding up to make something big may not have been available in Africa just five or 10 years ago. Much of our experience with big data has come about with the rise of mobility, he noted.

"Mobility has broken barriers of isolation. It is changing how we live our lives and it is changing us; especially in this knowledge and information-based economy." Big data is part of this, he said, further mentioning how mobility affects the ways we use and interpret data.

Conversations around big data go beyond being big; in order for this data to be valuable, it needs to be smart, noted Akinyemi. "Using big data effectively requires good analytical skills." Smart analytics is essential to derive insights from data, identify trends and assess what needs to be done in order to meet social needs.

"Big data has become smart data and big data is not smart data until you have the analytical tools to make it useful. We now need to transform this smart data into informed data to promote a thriving economy that will be able to empower our people," he said. This has been a hurdle for Africa in the past - if you don't have information, you have nothing to analyse, which means that there is nothing to give you the insights you need to find solutions to real world problems.

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