Big data to accelerate economic recovery in post-coronavirus era, experts say

The value of data originating only from Google's Search and Maps functions is about Dh10bn a year in the UAE, company executive says

Organisations in the Middle East and North Africa will spend $4.8bn on upgrading data centres in 2020, almost 1.1 per cent more than last year. Getty
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Judicious use of big data will accelerate the global economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic but it is important to ensure that it remains in the right hands, a senior regional figure at Google has said.
"Enormous data is generated everyday … whether it is from Search, YouTube, Maps, Gmail or Android operating system. The potential to turn it into something valuable to propel economic recovery is there, but we have to make sure it reaches the right person at the right time," Selim Edde, the Middle East and North Africa head of public policy and government relations at Google, told an online seminar hosted by the US-UAE Business Council on Wednesday evening.

According to Google's estimates, the value originating just from Search and Maps data in the UAE is around Dh10 billion a year. This value can be optimised if data is used more efficiently, Mr Edde said.

However, data can be manipulated, and there has been a flurry of fake news during the the Covid-19 pandemic. Google is using "an army of individuals and technologies such as AI and machine learning to make sure that data is reliable, otherwise all efforts will go waste,” Mr Edde added.

The global economy is facing its deepest recession since the Great Depression and is forecast to contract 5.2 per cent this year as a result of the economic fallout from the pandemic, according to the World Bank.

Data is “crucial” for speedy economic recovery, Leile Serhan, Microsoft's head of public sector in the UAE, said.

“It can be used for taking quick decisions, implementing new policies and protecting citizens,” Ms Serhan said.

“The organisations that experienced minimal impact of the pandemic are those that adapted fast … using data insights, they responded well to the new market conditions, consumer demands and changes in government regulations around lockdowns,” she added.

As the world responds to the Covid-19 pandemic, data is helping policymakers and businesses make key decisions related to reopenings, while mitigating supply chain disruptions and contributing to important research.

“Covid-19 has triggered global businesses to rethink … how our societies and economies function. It has accelerated the business transformation that is generating even more data,” Ahmed Alkhallafi, managing director of Hewlett Packard Enterprise in the UAE, said.

“There has been a tremendous growth in remote working, telemedicine and distance learning. We are seeing transformation across three areas – data processing, data storage and data management.”

Mr Alkhallafi said edge-to-platform strategies, where data is processed by a local device or server, rather than being transmitted to a data centre or cloud, will allow organisations who may be spread across different locations to achieve the best results.

“Global data volume will double every two to three years and the majority of that will not be created in cloud or traditional data centres but in the edge-to-platform.”

Nearly 80 per cent of the data will be generated or processed on edge devices globally, while only 20 per cent will come from the cloud by 2025, according to Gartner estimates.

“There will be an uptick in edge computing, especially during this time of economic uncertainty as supply chains grow closer to the customers. Customers demand more, they want to access their data more and see how it is processed,” Mr Alkhallafi said .