When I speak about big data with government leaders in our client countries around the world, I often find that many have some awareness of big data, but for many, that's where the story ends. Most are not sure how it is going to affect them or what they should do. Most leaders are largely unaware that the impact of big data is likely to be broad and deep. What governments do (or fail to do) will likely shape up the competitiveness of their countries' businesses for the next generation.
In countries further along on its adoption curve, big data has already started to transform not only the information technology sector but almost every business in every industry. Incorporation of big data today is analogous in many ways to the transformative effect of electricity on industries in the 19th century. While electricity production and distribution became an industry in itself, it also led businesses in all sectors to redesign their processes to take advantage of this new resource, leading to unprecedented productivity gains of the Second Industrial Revolution. It isn't surprising therefore that at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, there was much talk about the global economy being on a brink of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, fueled by big data enabled innovations. Governments in emerging economies cannot afford to be left out of this conversation.
In this blog I hope to show how big data, as a new resource – one that is abundant and rapidly growing – is transforming the business environment and changing the way companies compete with each other. I will also offer suggestions for actions and policies that governments can initiate to position their economies for the advent of the so-called Big Data Revolution, and show that if they don't, they risk losing market share to more digital data-savvy competitors. Finally, I will share a new tool: Open Data for Business (OD4B) Assessment and Engagement Tool, that the World Bank has launched to help governments lay the foundation for the use of one type of big data – open government data – by the private sector.