28 October 2016
A massive amount of data is changing hands but the part that is being used is only the tip of the iceberg. Picture:
A massive amount of data is changing hands but the part that is being used is only the tip of the iceberg. Picture:

Big data key to increasingly connected world of the future

The world is becoming more connected in every possible way, forcing countries and companies to adapt accordingly, a technology expert said.

They must deploy data technologies (DT) or risk losing their core competence in the future, said Dr. Toa Charm, vice president of the Hong Kong Computer Society (HKCS).  

Charm is also chairman of the society’s big data special interest group.

A massive amount of data has been collected through various business activities and in the regulatory systems, but the part that is being used is only the tip of the iceberg.

For instance, some life insurers have started testing the use of behavioral data collected from social websites to supplement the traditional ways of measuring the life span of potential clients, Charm told EJ Insight.

In another example, Alibaba’s financial subsidiary in January launched a credit scoring system, using customer behavior analytics to guide its micro lending services.

In a recent speech, Alibaba founder Jack Ma said those who ignore the ongoing shift to DT from IT (information technology) could miss key opportunities.

Charm and Andrew Young Meng-cheung, chief commercial officer of Hong Kong Science Technology Park (HKSTP), said they have noticed increasing interest in big data in Hong Kong.

An indication of the growing trend was a record attendance at the HKCS annual big data symposium. This year, more than 400 took part, Charm said.

Young said “the wind [of startup activities] is blowing again” in Hong Kong. He said many people in mid-career have joined their younger counterparts in the new wave and more retired professionals are coming forward to share their practical experiences.

However, Charm said Hong Kong is still at a very early stage of big data compared with other Asia Pacific markets.

He said it lacks three key metrics — volume, variety and velocity — also known as 3Vs.  

Volume refers to the amount of data, variety refers to the number of types of data and velocity refers to the speed of data processing.

Charm said the government could do more on support development of a big data industry such as making public data available in unified machine-readable format.

Hong Kong was 54th in a global ranking 2013 by the Global Open Data Index, far behind many European countries.

In Asia, it lagged India, Taiwan and Japan, among other places.

Hong Kong suffered from lack of machine-readable data, although it scored well in having an open environment.

The biggest challenge for Hong Kong is the shortage of big data talent, both on the technical side and the business side.

Local universities have just started to open big data courses and only a handful of businessmen understand how their business can benefit from DT.

It’s not enough that data scientists understand the technical aspects of big data, Charm said.

They should also be able to express it layman’s terms, he said.

Charm said Hong Kong will achieve a breakthrough by nurturing data scientists.

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EJ Insight reporter

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