Is data the new oil?

June 28, 2019 10:55
To turn data into precious resources, human input is critical. Photo: Freepik

Some data experts argue that the common analogy of data as the new oil is seriously flawed. It could, they say, mislead companies and policymakers into believing that the more data they have, the more advantage they will necessarily have in developing AI.

Such misperceptions could create various problems. For example, we might focus excessively on collecting data, while neglecting privacy and ethical issues.

Data is in fact quite different from oil, which can be used pretty much anywhere regardless where the source is. The application of data is more restrictive and specific.

Customer-purchasing-habit data from Shanghai may not be applicable for London, for example.

To turn data into precious resources, human input is critical.

What most corporates lack is this: talents who understand both the business and data technology.

To drive business development with data technology, companies need to have people who know how to coordinate between different departments in terms of standards unification, safety control, etc.

Companies also need professionals who can uphold data quality, and help change the corporate culture to one that truly values and promotes the use of data.

No amount of data can replace this sort of talent.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 27

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Venture Partner of Sequoia Capital China, former head of the data committee and vice president at Alibaba Group.