Get ready for the age of the zettabyte

Singapore is becoming a leader in data analytics and agencies such as the Economic Development Board have been working to establish this position. Capabilities in this field will create economic value and jobs. Arti Mulchand talks to three people working in the sector.

Move over megabytes, the zettabyte age is upon us.

By 2020, the world will have generated about 44 zettabytes (4.4 trillion gigabytes) of data, according to a 2014 report commissioned by storage company EMC.

That is 10 times the global amount of data last year. Not that the current 4.4 zettabytes is anything to be scoffed at, especially since, according to Scandinavian research group Sintef, 90 per cent of that was created over the past two years.

Propelled by the millions who share items such as photos on Facebook or use cloud computing, this data explosion has spawned a global growth in analytics and created a shortage of professionals who can drill down into this data and tell businesses, organisations and governments what exactly to do with it.

These include data scientists who analyse this data, analytics solution architects who help implement analytics using IT systems, and analytics domain experts who have deep knowledge on how to apply analytics in various sectors.

"There is a closing gap between the opportunity presented by data, and its application to real-world business processes.

"Filling this gap is a competitive advantage for countries and a career opportunity for individuals," says Mr Kiren Kumar, director of infocomms and media at the Economic Development Board (EDB).

Singapore's strong IT infrastructure, already primed to collect and host data, and a legal and regulatory environment that ensures data is used responsibly already give the country an edge. Since 2011, more than 30 analytics teams have been set up across various industries, the bulk by companies such as Accenture, Ogilvy & Mather, Wunderman and IBM, which anticipate strong demand for these skills from their clients.

Other companies, such as Lenovo, have set up analytics labs here to support their own businesses, while start-ups such as Crayon Data, Lynx Analytics and Antuit are developing unique analytics offerings here.

The talent pool is being grown, too. Working with both the industry and educational institutions, the EDB aims to groom another 2,500 analytics professionals by 2017. By then, applied analytics is expected to add $1 billion in value to the Singapore economy.

For example, four master's and six bachelor's programmes will be introduced at local universities such as the National University of Singapore and the Singapore Management University, and deep domain expertise in areas such as retail, health care and logistics will be developed. Research into analytics and its applications is also being promoted aggressively. They will support an analytics-powered future that no business can afford to ignore, says Mr Kumar.

"Technology is changing the nature of competition and forcing companies to re-think how they create and deliver value to their customers. They need to prepare for the new digital world and ensure that they are able to respond to it."

This article was first published on Oct 27, 2014.

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