The Bay Area Takes on Big Data

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California is a hotbed for big data innovation. Against that backdrop, the Bay Area Council recently welcomed some of the region’s brightest minds from across industries to a luncheon sponsored by member Experian for a discussion on how businesses and society can benefit most from the immense amount of data that exists today. The field of data science is a relatively new one, and there’s much to learn from sharing best practices across different types of enterprises.

The discussion was led by Craig Boundy, Experian North America CEO,  and Eric Haller, Global Head of Experian DataLabs. Here is a summary of the conversation.

Everyone in the room inherently understood the tremendous benefit big data can provide to society.

It’s commonly estimated that in just the past five years, more than 90 percent of data in the world has been generated. Experian continues to make considerable investments in data, innovation and technology to identify new ways to glean greater insights from this data. These insights have real world application that can help tens of thousands of Americans. Small businesses, for example, create nearly two-thirds of net new jobs in the United States and notoriously struggle to obtain loans to grow their business due to a perceived lack of data on their credit worthiness. Without access to credit these businesses aren’t able to expand and are often prevented from hiring more people.  Looking for a solution to this problem, our data scientists at Experian experimented with social media data and found an innovative way to help small businesses with credit verification through an advanced data analysis approach.

Boundy said he envisions many more ways we can unlock the power of data to transform our world tomorrow, not the least of which is in the realm of consumer credit. So many of life’s biggest moments are defined by money, including access to it, and the ability to borrow it. Yet, in the United States alone, 64 million people have no credit histories. This makes it hard to secure a loan to achieve their dreams. Around the world, millions more under-banked consumers are living on cash-only systems. Changing that means using data to build more detailed and accurate pictures of people’s financial lives so that people seeking access to credit hear “no” less often, and lenders can lend with confidence.

To capitalize most effectively on these and other opportunities for big data, a key theme emerged from the Bay Area Council discussion. Across the board, we need greater consistency in the way we collect and analyze data.

As various industries have been embracing big data at a rapid pace – estimates anticipate a 50% increase in big data and business analytics software revenues over five years – there hasn’t been time to formalize a set of standards that enable different data collection and analysis systems to “talk” to each other. That’s particularly evident in the healthcare industry, where electronic health records have elevated medical practice, yet the multiple systems available lack interoperability. Without such uniformity, it is difficult to draw high-level conclusions applicable in a number of situations.

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