Big data: ‘a lot of dirt, not much gold’

June 20th, 2013 by · Leave a Comment

This article was authored by John C. Tanner, and was originally posted on

Service providers are keen to leverage big data for targeted services, advertising and better customer service, but are at odds with what data to analyze and how to do it without alarming customers over privacy concerns.

Speaking at the opening Stakeholders Panel at the start of the CommunicAsia Summit, SingTel global advertising head Grant Watts said that the problem with big data is that it is, well, big.

“It’s like the Gold Rush – there’s a lot of dirt, but not much gold,” he said.

“Operators tend to store all the data because you don’t know what you need, and they tend to silo it along product lines. So how do you unlock that?”

Richard Harshman, head of ASEAN and India for Amazon Web Services, added that while there’s more to big data than just a buzzword, people do have a lot of different ideas of what it is. “It’s about extracting the right data and doing proper analysis of it.”

Big data also raises potential privacy concerns for both customers and regulators, which is why it’s important for service providers to be open with customers and explain the value they get in return for opting into services that use customer data, Watts said.

“In the future, however, the biggest question will be, who owns that customer data?” Watts pointed out. “Is it the product team leads? Is it the company? Is it the customers? People are becoming more aware that they’re leaving behind all these digital bread crumbs, and the number of bread crumbs are huge. There’s a big opportunity for telcos to help empower customers with their data. But there’s a lot of work that needs to be done before that can happen.”

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