Open Data- building businesses through Big Data

datacenter_0Big 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 centre of the sales and marketing decisions improved their marketing ROI by 15 to 20 per cent. 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.

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Open education in Nigeria.

770x385-uk-library-booksAs a proponent of open education, I have scrutinized and criticized both the academic publishing process and the academic publishing industry.

I suggest that academic peer review—the process by which professional knowledge producers evaluate one another’s work (often anonymously)—become more transparent, so that readers can better understand how and why, for example, scientists have deemed a certain study suitable for publication in an academic journal, or deemed otherwise by spotting flaws in their methods or conclusions. Transparency in academic peer review ensures that reviewers’ motives are laid bare when evaluating research works. This would ensure that factors like sentiments and regional/institutional differences would neither pose as barriers for academic accomplishment nor stand as tools for approval of shallow research works.

Open education principles are also impacting the academic publishing industry through “open access” movements. Often, researchers have to relinquish the copyrights they hold on their work when they agree to let journals publish it. These Journal publishers then charge individual readers and libraries fees for access to these scholarly materials. These fees are typically very high and unaffordable for the average researchers and many researchers and librarians claim they have often had to limit access to important research to people capable of paying for it. Consequently, scientists and other university researchers cannot access the materials they need—to learn about new developments in their fields, or to read, replicate, and verify other people’s findings.

Dissatisfaction with limitations on access to research has therefore spurred various “open access” movements in higher education systems around the world.
A good example is Open Switch Africa, which i would talk about in another post. Nevertheless, some institutions have adopted open access policies to grant the public access to research materials. There are lots of open source publishing platforms like Creative Commons and the likes, which editorial teams can use to make referee and publish (largely open access) academic journals outside the traditional publishing system. In the United States for instance, states like California have proposed legislation requiring peer-reviewed research funded by taxpayer money to be made accessible to anyone who wishes to read it. The White House has also indicated that it supports open access to academic research. However, Open access still remains a vague reality in Africa (Nigeria) as many institutions still do not recognize the importance of self/institutional archiving and the Nigerian Government has not shown enough courage in adopting policies that aids openness in knowledge sharing.

I sincerely hope that soon enough, the academic and scholarly bodies in Nigeria would rise to the challenge of supporting the adoption of open policies in our academic research system which would in turn cause a huge impact on research and development in Africa.

Adisa Bolu.

Welcome to Open Switch Africa (OSA).

 

Data

Open Switch Africa is an advocacy organisation that recognizes the importance of access to data, research materials and education in Africa. The various advantages of openess in these fields have made our purpose streamlined towards making impacts in Data, Education and research works. Our target is to encourage free flow of information (Data, research publication, educational materials etc.) that may be beneficial for the masses for self development as well as advancement in research and technology across all walks of life. This is a fundamental principle for bridging knowledge gaps between the privileged and underprivileged communities. We therefore have a vision to reach that potential where students have access to quality basic education regardless of their financial strength, every individual has access to the necessary information data to be the best at their chosen profession and businesses have access to data that can aid potential growth.