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The Value of (Your) Data

What is the value of your data?

Why is data quickly becoming one of the most valuable assets in the world?

In this post, we will look at what data actually is, how it is being monetized as a pillar of artificial intelligence, and why it has the potential to be one of the most sought-after commodities on the planet.

The Definition of Data

It is no secret that pretty much every industry now relies upon data. But what constitutes data, and why should we care about it?

First, data is simply information that is organized for a specific use. Information by itself is great, but it doesn’t become useful until we can collect, arrange, and purpose it for something meaningful.

Data is now being utilized in many industries to solve business challenges and for organizations to strategically make important decisions. However, it is vital to remember that simply possessing data is not the sole answer to driving results. In addition to having the data, properly interpreting it and taking the corresponding action are essential to making it all work.

Data as a Valuable Commodity

With data being everywhere, it can be difficult to understand the value or relevance it has in our daily lives. However, it is no secret that large companies (think social media and large online shopping/retail sites) are using our data on a continuous basis to better inform their recommendation systems about what we like, ultimately so they can know us better and sell us more.

This is where things get a bit murky.

The personal data that these organizations now possess has the potential to be used for good or for harm. As an example, no one wants to enter their credit card information into the checkout process every single time they purchase something from a retail site. Storing such data automatically is a feature that makes our lives easier by saving time.

However, are we sure that the stored credit card information, and other PII (personally identifiable information), is not being sold to a 3rd party or even used maliciously by bad actors? So, while our data contains inherent value (as it can be protected, sold, or even used for by others for illicit gain), it is up to the organizations we trust to make good on their promise of privacy and propriety.

Data as the Foundation of AI

As we look to the future, and even the present quite honestly, we are seeing the rapid expansion of technologies such as AI (artificial intelligence). Entire industries are popping up based upon new uses for this tech, and nearly every day a new AI company is being talked about in the media…more on this in a future post.

What many may not realize is that these industries and technologies (AI and machine learning specifically) cannot exist without data, and lots of it. One main premise behind machine learning and AI is that they require tremendous amounts of data to feed the machine (aka system). Eventually, the system can learn to recognize patterns and then ultimately make predictions based upon those learned patterns. The more data that the AI system is fed, the smarter it gets. So, we would be right in saying that the raw material for AI engines is, in its most simple form, data.

Reflection Points

Now that we have established the significant value of data, we can understand that much like any commodity, it is being radically harnessed for monetization by technology industries such as AI, and that will likely continue to increase well into the future. The matter in question is how we will responsibly and mindfully harness this data for uses that help humanity solve its most difficult problems rather than cause greater inequality and harm.

  • How would you quantify the value of your own data?
  • Are you concerned about your data being exploited for gain or profit by others (whether individuals or organizations)? Why or why not?
  • What do you think should be done (by governments, organizations, or others) to protect your data as AI and technology industries continue to grow?
  • What are some ways you may be able to positively leverage this societal gravitation/movement toward big data and AI?

About the Author

Luke Williams is a Senior Lecturer and Competency-Based Education Program Coordinator at Central Washington University. Within the IT-Management (ITAM) Dept. at Central, he teaches business and technology classes at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. During the past 8 years, he has taught 27 different courses for 4 separate college and university programs. In addition to his many years of corporate experience in the private sector selling to organizations such as Microsoft and Amazon, Mr. Williams draws on his family history. He is the third generation of a family of real estate investors/entrepreneurs. Collectively, the family has remodeled over 150 residential and multi-family properties throughout the United States and recently sold a multimillion-dollar commercial real estate enterprise after three decades of ownership/operation. Mr. Williams’ studies included a semester abroad at the University of Oxford, UK, where he was taught by some of Britain’s top experts in computer science, foreign policy, and international business. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and shortly thereafter completed an MBA degree from Azusa Pacific University in Southern California. Mr. Williams currently resides near the Seattle area with his wife and 3 children.

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