In the early 1980s, Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates had a dream to put “a computer on every desk and every home”. Though crazy at that time in the world of typewriters, this dream has mostly come to pass. Computers and later on the internet, have transformed how we work, how we do business, and pretty much how we live. But perhaps what Bill Gates never predicted was the data revolution that would come with computers’ spread. Today, we generate about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. For perspective, that is about 2.5 million Terabytes and this will continue to increase with technologies such as IoT(Internet of Things) and driverless cars.
With this data has come endless opportunities, especially for businesses. Today’s businesses are largely data-driven, and business leaders depend on data for decision making. Million-dollar companies have been established that solely deal with data. One would correctly argue that companies such as Google and Facebook are data companies. For instance, Facebook uses the massive data uploaded on its platforms to train complex Artificial Algorithms(AI) that suggest, almost perfectly, the ads to target different people. In the last few years, we have seen the emergence of data scientists, widely considered the sexiest job of the 21st century. These are professionals, with technical skills such as programming and statistics that can work with this data and generate meaningful insights that can help businesses and governments in decision making.
Data Literacy for Everyone
However, not every company has the capacity to hire data scientists, though every company could significantly benefit from someone with data science skills. In fact, just the knowledge of data science lingo would help any team in a company. We can’t leave all the power of data to data scientists. Today’s world requires everyone to be data literate. This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to study data science or become a data scientist. An overview of data science would go a long way in enriching strategic business decisions; even at a conversational level.
Universities around the world are incorporating data science into their curriculum. Graduating Computer Science students should go beyond algorithms and SQL (Structured Query Language) databases and know how to handle and work with data. Universities like the Technical University of Catalunya have created programs like the Bachelor’s Degree in Data Science and Engineering to bridge this gap. Others like Harvard have short programs tailored for business professionals who want to be data literate. Locally, professional skills-based training schools like JENGA School aim to train over 5000 data scientists by the year 2025 and make data literacy as common as computer literacy.
Building a data-driven culture is critical for any 21st Century business, whether a corporate or a small business. Professionals and students alike are, therefore, at the cusp of a revolution in a data-driven world.
Albert Kahira is a researcher at Barcelona Supercomputing Center in Spain where he researches Large Scale Machine Learning Workflows. He is also an instructor at JENGA School where he teaches Data Science Foundations.
He can be reached through [email protected] or [email protected]
This article was published in the Business Daily on 15th January 2021.