Data Plays Important Role in Shaping Idaho’s Economy

The development of products such as the personal computer, the World Wide Web and cloud-storage have completely changed the way companies generate, store and analyze their data, turning into what is now considered the Big Data Revolution.

The development and growth of big data has forced companies to transform the way they do business. As the Idaho and national economies continue to integrate with the global marketplace, the ability to organize, analyze and understand data is becoming increasingly important. Businesses that successfully couple their own data with other available data sources and understand the questions to be asked can gain a strong competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

As technology has improved, data generation has grown exponentially. Data generated by social media platforms alone have surpassed any amount ever generated before. Every minute in 2014, global Internet users generated 4 million Google searches, 2.5 million Facebook posts, 416,000 Tinder swipes, 277,000 Tweets, 204 million emails and uploaded 72 hours of new video content to YouTube, just to name a few, according to a study by Domo, a Web-based analytics company. (Source: http://mashable.com/2014/04/23/data-online-every-minute/#jWhjtgIY9SqG)

data never sleeps

CSC, a global information technology firm, recently released projections indicating that 35 zettabytes (or 35 trillion gigabytes) of new data will be generated in the year 2020. To put the growth of data generation into perspective, CSC is estimating that the amount of data to be generated in 2020 will be 44 times the amount of data generated in 2009 and 35 times the estimated amount of all human knowledge in 2007.

As the Big Data Revolution has taken hold, a growing number of companies have needed to reinvent the way they collect, store and analyze their data. A new study by the Economist Intelligence Unit explored how companies have adapted to the Big Data Revolution and how companies are exploiting the new opportunities presented by the massive amounts of data they are collecting. Their report shows that since 2011, substantially more companies are viewing their data as a strategic asset and are developing innovative ways to use the data to answer difficult questions and improve the business decision-making process.

Finding people capable of making these types of breakthroughs, however, has not been easy. The ability to clean, filter and analyze these large data sets requires people with the skills of software programmers who also have a sound understanding of statistics and analytics. They are able to mine through troves of unorganized and unfiltered information to make valuable discoveries and insights with the data they are working with and are able to communicate their findings and suggest implications for new business directions. The increasing demand for people with this rare combination of skill sets has given rise to a new breed of talent known as “data scientists.”

In today’s digital economy businesses are increasingly turning to this limited pool of talent. The growth in demand has been so remarkable that in 2012 the Harvard Business Review identified data science as the sexiest job of the 21st century. To meet the future demand several universities are developing programs to train the necessary workforce. Whether preparing to enter the workforce for the first time or looking for a career change, developing skills in data science will open a variety of career opportunities.

As the economy continues to improve, the advancement of big data shows no signs of slowing. To stay competitive in the growing global economy, Idaho’s businesses will need to continue to develop their ability to analyze and understand their data. Companies that fail to take advantage of the insights and opportunities available in big data run the risk of being surpassed by their competition.

Christopher.StJeor@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 557-2500 ext. 3077