Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Love for Data is The Beginning of Wisdom

I’m in Stockholm, and would be here till the end of the week. I would be busy for the next couple of days in a Strategic meeting . Asides many other results, one of the anticipated outcome of the meetings I would be part of is to build IT tools that would enable the organization I work for make sense out of the Data it has, spot patterns; opportunities and capitalize on it.

Data is interesting. It is interesting because it conceals stories. And the process of extracting the information from the Data, extracting the story being told by the Data itself is an exciting task; because you never know. You never know you have so much information to work it and make strategic decisions with. You never know you have a trend, a pattern, a window of opportunity, a threat until you pay attention to your Data. There are a lot of Information out there. We are swimming in an ocean of patterns and trends but you never know until you get down to Data analysis.

Thing is this: The love for Data is the beginning of wisdom, there is no way an organization can become intelligent without capturing and analysis the Internally and externally generated Data which affects its operations. This realization, although simple, is quite powerful and it made me reflect on realities back home in Nigeria; asking myself exactly how intelligently are the public sectors in the country being run?

Data is king. If you have ever read any of Malcom Gladwells books, you would appreciate the power of analyzing Data and connecting the dots. From the Outlier to Blink, he usually, often or frequently delivers an exceptional essay which provides an excellent insight into the captured Data, showing the trends and telling the hidden stories.

So in Nigeria, I ask ; can I easily access and analyze trends in the National Budgets of the last 10 years? Can I see how spending has changed and the effect of this in the development of the country? What about common occurrence like Accidents? Where is the Data on this? And how can I utilize these Data to see what region, sex, age group are prone to this issue. What about Data being generated around health issues in the country? How much of it is even been captured? What’s the correlation between a particular tribe and the occurrence of twins? You never know, what interesting patterns lie hidden within Data until you pay attention.

It is a stupid institution that won’t bother about Data because, really the tools to capture and analyze data abound! So there is no excuse to not make Data Analysis a strategy and practice: Per country, per State or per organization.

One of the areas Information Technology can easily be leveraged on for Development in the country is via capitalizing on Data. And the fact is that using Information Technology for development need not be fancy in every case nor does it need to be the implementation of cutting edge and cool and geeky stuffs. Simply applying existing data visualization tools in the country to capture and analyze trends and patterns and making this information available, might just be one effective step towards the attainment of intelligent institutions and applying IT for development.

So my candid Recommendations:

Capture Data
Simply described as Record Keeping. Make use of easily accessible tools like our good old Microsoft excel to capture the data.

Make it Open.
Don’t just stop at capturing these Data. Make it available in format that can easily be accessed, make the Data public, build API’s, release Data in CVS. Make it available! One of the Data sources I would be working with is Data made open for everybody to access. This is the way to go.

Analyze/Visualize it
The power is in the visualization and analyzes. Make use of available tools to do this. Like I said, you do not need to build any fancy tools; there are existing IT tools that can be leveraged on.

One example is Tableau, a cool data visualizing tool which by the way, would be one of the tools I would be working with these coming couple of days. Capitalize on these tools and just use it.

Finally, I know all these won’t go anywhere without a culture that supports paying attention to Data, but really it would really be inept of us to continue in such direction as a country or institution.

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