Thursday, 4 April 2013

Big data revolution arrives in Europe | New Europe

By Nerea Rial |

“There is no doubt that we have entered the era of big data”, stated Neelie Kroes, commissioner responsible for the Digital Agenda, speaking at the EIT Foundation Annual Innovation Forum in Brussels on 26 March.
“At a time when Europe desperately needs growth, this is exactly where we should be looking to create new jobs and new opportunities”, she added.

Currently, the number of data is increasing, as well as the devices that generate it: mobile phones, GPS signals, traffic lights, sensors, video cameras, computers, and a large etcetera.  All these informations live under the umbrella called “Big Data” and, well organised and legislated, can generate hundreds if billions of Euros per year in Europe.

The correct use of all this data can influence positively on society,  the economy and businesses. Therefore, Europe has to make this information available, transparent and accessible for everyone, in order to apply it on education, research, innovation and policy, said Kroes.

In terms of innovation, Storify is a clear example of how enormous quantities of data can be well organised and presented to be understandable. Xavier Damman, CEO of Storify, explained during the EIT event, that the social network was born as a solution to manage news and make them easy accessible for everybody.
However, Europe still needs more ideas and solutions like Storify. “We lack the innovation and entrepreneurship needed to push businesses”,  Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, told the press.

According to the commissioner, entrepreneurs have to take risks in order to succeed, but at the same time they should be supported by the society and protected with new policies. In addition, ICT skills must be learned in schools, universities and even with online courses while working, to be up-to-date and prepared for all the data that is and will be around us.
But, to let this happen, an open data system must be implemented. With this, researchers can speed up and improve scientific discoveries, students can learn more quickly and businesses can generate more benefits, she said.

Years ago, “Big Data” was an unknown definition, but now has became one of the main issues in European ICT discussions. Nevertheless, as Neelie Kroes highlighted, “this is an opportunity for organisations of every size and every sector”, and must be discussed in different environments.

Healthcare is one of those sectors that are using the benefits of big data. Speaking at a seminar on data-value in Brussels, Chiara Garattini, Senior Heath Researcher at Intel, explained that the heath area has specific challenges, due to the big number of files, prescriptions and documents that are generated every day.
Intel offers a solution to organise all this information and make it searchable for concrete patients. However, there are still challenges to overcome, such as free access to data, enough proves of effectiveness and value of this information, development of reimbursement models and solutions to tackle piracy and security.
Regarding the last point, Neelie Kroes explained that trust is needed to make people feel confident when they give their private details to, for instance, hospitals, companies, social networks and governments.
In addition, businesses need advice from companies like SAS, which helps them analyse information and manage data. John Bosswell, Vice-President of SAS, explained that hack-attacks are one of the main challenges companies have to face and, as a consequence, “businesses have to be careful with data, we have a responsibility. Otherwise, costumers will loose confidence.”

There are still lots of questions about what is “Big Data”; but what is clear is that it “is the innovation story of our time”, Kroes said, and “the new oil” to power Europe's economy.


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