Cisco: BIG DATA presents new revenue opportunity for Africa’s service providers

Peter Ford, MD of Cisco Consulting Services
Peter Ford, MD of Cisco Consulting Services

During the recent Cisco Expo 2013 held in South Africa’s Sun City from March 3-4, 2013, one of the sessions focused on a new term – I don’t know whether to call it industry trend – called “BIG DATA.”

As the mention of the term “BIG DATA” became increasingly more regular at the expo, I got keen and tried to get the definition.

Several definitions of the term exist but I decided to borrow PC Magazine’s definition  which states thatBIG DATA is the massive amounts of data that collect over time that are difficult to analyze and handle using common database management tools. Big Data includes business transactions, photos, surveillance videos and activity logs (see machine-generated data).” PC Magazine adds that “scientific data from sensors can reach mammoth proportions over time, and Big Data also includes unstructured text posted on the Web, such as blogs and social media.”

According to Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), which examines the wider implications of Big Data and how this is projected to impact service providers as well as how they should act now, Africa is facing vexing challenges from Big Data.

IBSG notes along with the rest of the globe, Africa faces vexing challenges from Big Data. These are posing big storage headaches for businesses across the region, as the race to unlock value from massive and exponentially growing datasets heats up. Indeed, data volume has expanded three-fold since 2011, while cost reductions are so far not nearly as pronounced

“Big Data is already transforming businesses today and playing an integral role in defining new processes to aid in new innovation. Today, it is not a question of whether Service Providers in Africa should invest, but how far should they go. At a minimum, they can utilize it internally to transform their operations or expand externally to further benefit their customers as a “Network Based Data Intermediary. The ability for Service Providers to move more aggressively into this space may be difficult, but the size of the prize may warrant further investigation. By capitalizing on $200 billion of internal and external value creation, Service Providers can complement their business by becoming an Info Infomediary,” said Peter Ford, MD of Cisco Consulting Services.

Ford noted that during the upturn in internet traffic in the early 2000’s, the scale of data reached terabyte and petabyte levels on a daily basis for many companies, adding that at those levels, standard databases can no longer scale sufficiently to handle Big Data.

“But many analysts see it as “the new oil,” with the power to transform economies, bring greater efficiency to businesses, and improve our daily interactions as consumers. However, like oil, data is not truly valuable until it has been refined. This means analyzing it and extracting insights that can be leveraged into valuable action. Although it has been the subject of much discussion, Big Data is really in its infancy. This begs two core questions: How will Big Data evolve? And what are the opportunities for service providers to create value in Big Data?” posed Ford.

Below are some of IBSG’s highlights and key facts derived frominterviews with CIO’s globally in 2011:

  • Big Data is the number one most talked about topic amongst CIO’s today, even coming above mobility and cloud.
  • Big Data will present a real opportunity for Service Providers in Africa, and Cisco IBSG suggests four plausible options for market entry, creating a potential path to becoming a “network-based” infomediary:
    • Staying the course by focusing on Data Acquisition as well as containing use of data
    • Becoming the preferred Service Provider for consumers and businesses by optimizing their Networks and having a strong customer focus
    • Investing in and offering tools such as Location Data, Usage/Behavior Data, and Storage/Processing tools.
    • Removing industry barriers by introducing Bridge Domains, offering new services, and providing increased security/protection.
  • By its very nature, network traffic is Big Data. In just one slice of the network – the mobile network – there are 6 billion mobile subscriptions in the world, and every day 10 billion text messages are sent. Data is being collected everywhere, but the network is always in the middle, able to see, correlate patterns, and take action
  • Big Data is already changing lives. It will play a role in simplifying and improving the most common to complex tasks, while giving back time and money.  To name just a few examples: in health care, medical treatments will be personalized, allowing rapid identification and control of infectious disease outbreaks; in the home, Big Data will facilitate better search, discovery, monitoring and control for most household needs, from repairs to energy usage; and in our daily lives, there will be less aggravation from traffic and queues of all kinds, including at call centers, transportation hubs, and retail centers.
  • For more details about big data, go here and for theIBSG White Paper on Big Data Analytics: How Information Infomediaries Will Create a New Data Ecosystem, read this document.
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