Neelie Kroes:The Economic and social benefits of big data

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Webcast Conference on Big Data /Brussels

23 May 2013

To add your comment to this speech, see the social version of the speech here

As I speak, the world is generating 1.7 million billion bytes of data per minute. That’s over 6 Megabytes per day for every man woman and child on the planet. From instruments, sensors, online transactions, email, videos, and a host of other digital sources.

That’s incredible. But the amazing thing isn’t just the amount of data: it’s what we can do with it these days. And new advances in machine learning, data mining, and visualisation give us ever more ways to extract ever more useful information from ever larger data sets.

As Tim Berners-Lee said: “Data is a precious thing.” And he knew that, if you put it online, it will be used by other people to do wonderful things, in ways that you could never imagine. But why is data so valuable?

Quite simply, knowledge is the engine of our economy. And data is its fuel.

For traditional and service sectors, analytics and processing bring new opportunities, transforming efficiency and productivity.

For the public sector, better data allows services that are more efficient, transparent and personalised.

For scientists, open results and open data allow new ways to share, compare, and discover: permitting whole new fields of research.

For citizens, data is the key to more information and empowerment, and to new services and applications (think about using data to improve Internet search engines, to better trace and fight illnesses or to limit road congestion).

We are at the beginning of a paradigm shift. Huge amounts of data are starting to be generated automatically. And we start being able to store, process and analyse these huge amounts. This can change the way we make decisions and run our businesses.

To give you an example, Siemens fits its machinery with sensors, which generate data about its functioning. That data is constantly analysed for any anomalies – to detect failures and fatigue in advance, alert service operators upfront before damage occurs, mitigate the risk of long term service contracts and increase the efficiency of remote monitoring operations.

Although benefits of such ‘automatically generated’ data, as opposed to obtained manually by a technician dispatched to measure the machine in various ways, are undeniable, automated generation is still not the norm in industrial production.

So, how can people like me support that? I think there are a few ways.

First, regulation. We need a set of rules that maximise the value and minimise the cost of data. Making it freely available for re-use, and freely flowing across Europe. Without compromising on fairness, transparency, or user control.

For one thing, as part of our wider open data strategy, we have revised the rules about public sector data.

In fact, I expect that revised Directive to be finally approved by EU legislators within a matter of weeks. It will make it way easier to use and re-use public data, with lower charges and without complicated conditions for re-use.

Secondly, unlocking this data needs people’s trust. So we need a data protection framework that builds that confidence and permits that digital innovation. Here to read more.

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