Open Data- building businesses through Big Data

Big data is a term used to describe data-sets so large or complex such that the traditional data processing applications are inadequate to store them accurately. Challenges in storage include analysis, capture, search, sharing, storage, transfer, visualization, and information privacy. The process often include use of predictive analytics or other certain advanced methods to extract value from data, and store as an organized size of data set.

Specifically, businesses use big data, by combining data from web browsing patterns, social media, industry forecasts, existing customer records and so on, to predict market trends, prepare for demand, pinpoint customers, optimize pricing and promotions, and monitor real-time analytics and results. According to McKinsey analysis, considering more than 250 engagements over a five year period, companies that put data at the center of the sales and marketing decisions improved their marketing ROI by 15 to 20 percent. So we see the advantages that lie in big data management.

In Nigeria however, the availability of big data has not proven to be very economically useful. This is as a result of restricted access placed on big data. Some institutions that retain and continue to gather such large amount of data include the telecommunication companies. Through the large number of mobile phone users, SIM card registration and the ever increasing penetration of smartphones, these telecommunications companies have been able to gather so much data, much more than any other institutions in the country.

Nigeria has more big data than it knows what it can do with it. In a country with a population of 180 million people, we are living in an avalanche of data made possible by the internet, mobile penetration, web and business applications.

For a better understanding of the availability of big data in Nigeria using MTN a case study, it was noted that MTN with its 60 million active mobile lines, records about 2.6 million minutes of voice calls monthly. It as well records 77 per cent of Internet Traffic generated through mobile devices utilising about 40 million Megabytes from MTN Monthly. In terms of business applications, it can be noted that MTN holds 8.5 Petabytes of Data with a growth rate of 30 per cent. What all these mean is that with such huge concentration of data in one place, decisions around technology consumption habit can easily be made through careful study and analysis of these data.

The challenge however is that access to these data is restricted by the telecommunications’ regulator- the Nigeria Communications Commission. Although the restrictions to access to these data has not prevented MTN and other telcos from mining the same data to sell to advertisers who use these with little consideration of privacy rights of mobile phones users, we believe that the restrictions placed on data usage is limiting the growth of e-businesses in the country. The telcos, in their defense, argue on basis of security, and compliance with industry regulations but with regulatory bodies on ground, we could make the best out of these available data.

Strides have been made in placing an increased focus on data collection from regulators and organizations in Nigeria, an example being the recently instituted Bank Verification Number, however, a lot still needs to be done in encouraging access to big data. We can therefore conclude that access to big data can play a critical role in growth of small and medium scale businesses, e-fraud prevention, financial inclusion and fraud control for financial institutions. At Open Switch Africa, we believe in achieving development through Openess and we hope all citizens can come together to raise awareness and bring a lasting change to this issue.

Adisa Bolutife.