Breaking down Big Data

Though the concept of Big Data has been around for years, not many understand what it is or what it really means

06 Mar 2018 . 21,451 Views

The concept of big data has been around for years. What is new is the benefits that big data analytics brings to the table; speed and efficiency.

Whereas a few years ago a business would have gathered information, run analytics and unearthed information that could be used for future decisions, today that business can identify insights for immediate decisions.

According to Steve Lohr the term ‘Big Data’ was coined by Mr. John Mashey, a Chief Scientist at Silicon Graphics, back in the 1990’s.

“I was using one label for a range of issues, and I wanted the simplest, shortest phrase to convey that the boundaries of computing keep advancing,” Mr. Mashey.

So why the hype? Because in the new world of Big Data, we appreciate the benefits of its innovative nature.

Think about your daily interactions, as a business person, student, employer, employee, or manager. How many emails, tweets, WhatsApp messages, Facebook messages and/or RSS feeds on your wall, targeted market emails, phone messages…really, I could go on.

Today, being bombarded by an avalanche of data is part of the human condition. A recent prediction by research group IDC says that by 2025 the world will be creating 163 zettabytes of data.

According to the same report, in eight years’ time, an average connected person anywhere in the world will interact with connected devices nearly 4,800 times per day – one interaction every 18 seconds.


In 2011, McKinsey & Co. put out a report hyping big data’s business potential, predicting it would become “a key basis of competition”. The company said retailers could increase their operating margins by 60 percent if they could harness its potential.It would be a direct result of micro-targeting and the automatic fine-tuning of inventories and pricing in response to real-time in-store and online sales.

However, that doesn’t mean, that big data directly offers an advantage to those who use it. There are major ‘garbage in, garbage out’ problems with this information because majority of the data collected is unstructured. The reason for this is that most organizations are struggling with insights on how best to handle large volumes of information.

Once the data is analysed and structured it becomes valuable and useful in decision making.

We spoke to three experts in this field Timothy Oriedo- Data Scientist, Mbugua Njihia- Techpreneur, and Dr. Kendi Muchungi- Computational Neuroscientist. And here’s what they had to say about Big Data:


The author is a lecturer at the African Nazarene University

See also

  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the goals
  • SDG GOAL 9 Industry Innovation and Infrastructure
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