The importance of big data for Africa in 2016

By Armandè Kruger, Regional Sales Director at PBT Group

Thanks to the growth of smartphone adoption across Africa, data is being generated at a phenomenal rate, and there is no doubt that understanding big data, as a concept and an offering, will have a massive impact on the African continent.

In fact, irrespective of the size or geographical location, a company that does not analyse and understand the data at its disposal, will likely not be relevant in this highly competitive digital world. Coupled with this, the development of tailored solutions, which customers have come to expect, is not possible without data-driven analytics. So while we often forget, or don’t recognise, the measurable impact data can have on revenue – the reality is that big data has moved beyond any hype and will play a key role in shaping businesses operating in Africa in 2016.

To this end, a Forbes Insight survey recently found that 59 percent of executives consider big data and analytics to be a top five issue or the single most important way to achieve a competitive advantage. Despite this, decisions amongst those surveyed are still not driven by data, with respondents citing cultural and operational concerns as a hindrance.

If this is the case amongst American companies, some may ask if Africa will be able to make sense of big data. The answer is simple, of course we can!

As a continent, we are known for the innovative way in which we adapt technology to our unique market(s) for the benefit of the continent and its citizens. This sentiment holds true for big data as well. As an example, we are already seeing everyone from entrepreneurs to healthcare providers reaping the rewards data-driven solutions offer. As an example, big data in the healthcare space is being used to help predict epidemics, cure diseases and even improve the quality of life through apps that enable people to take control of healthier living.

If we couple innovation with the increased use of mobility and of course the willingness of consumers to share (some) personal information, this means that data warehouses are becoming richer in their content.

However, all of this necessitates better/stronger and more reliable analysis of data. To my mind, it will mean a strong focus from companies on obtaining quality information amidst the reams of so called ‘wasted’ data – and to do this, businesses will have to rely on solutions that offer both analytical and business intelligence capabilities.

But think of the opportunities this will present. Just by being able to extract information from data, businesses will now be able to determine things like customer behaviour, buying patterns, customer dissatisfaction or even predict future outcomes and trends that will impact their brand – all of which will become true market differentiators, no matter if that company is located in America or Lagos.

Even given the challenges, there is no doubt in my mind that 2016 will bring with it a stronger technology evolution in Africa. Big data provides too many benefits to ignore and how companies start benefitting from it will be fascinating to watch. However, traditional thinking around data needs to change for this to happen, and the new dispensation has to be embraced.

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