Big data – how much of your information is out there?


In the world of information technology, big data is the issue on everyone’s lips.

According to IBM, every day we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data, in the US a quintillion is a one followed by 18 zeros.


2,500,000,000,000,000,000 BYTES PER DAY (US)


2.5 MILLION terabyte hard drives (per day)

Either way, 2.5 quintillion of anything is a giant number.

In terms of bytes, it means more than 90 per cent of the data in the world today has been created just in the past two years.

That’s a staggering figure, especially when placed in the context of what came before.

For example –

200 years ago, it took six months for a letter from Australia to reach family in England;

 150 years ago, the original version of “express post” saw men on horseback carry information across America’s Great Plains and Rocky Mountains to California;

 50 years ago, air mail revolutionised international postage by cutting delivery times to mere days;

 and just a few short years ago, a letter or parcel sent by actual Express Post was promised to arrive within 24 hours, as long as delivery fell within a defined network.

As remarkable as these advances were at the time, today they seem quaint. Thanks to the rise of the internet, the entire world is now within our immediate reach as the spread of information via means such as email, social media and mobile technology continues to transform the communication landscape.

The latest phenomenon in this information revolution is big data, a deceptively simple term for a complex entity, namely a massive amount of structured and unstructured information so large that it is difficult to process by conventional means. Think of data comprising billions of pieces of information from millions of people and spanning various activities — Facebook posts, online purchasing, call centre exchanges, mobile phone use, Google searches – just to name a few. All that information is recorded, every day and from everyone everywhere.

The three ‘V’s

Big data breaks down into three components — volume, variety and velocity – but it’s another “V” that is raising the stakes in the ultra-competitive modern word: value.

Businesses are the big new players in the personalisation of digital media using information sourced from individual devices. Why? Because the value of big data lies in its provision of almost real-time insight into people’s behaviour, particularly their buying habits and online activities, which can then be applied to creating new and specific marketing strategies.

Known as data mining, companies are collecting your data and putting it to use in the marketing landscape, meaning your full life’s behaviour can now be tracked through different search engines and digitally stored. Every time you do anything online – use Google as a search, look at a website, buy your groceries – the digital world is collecting your data on everything you do, and noting where you are and your personal preferences.

Gone are the days of focus groups of 10 people giving companies their opinions on this product or that campaign strategy. Businesses can now capture and act upon thousands to millions of pieces of stored information.

So what protection do we have? I think the message to adopt is one similar to that of the responsible drinking campaigns. I call it responsible social media.

Despite understandable concerns about the access to, and application of, people’s personal information, the rise of big data also brings with it opportunities for the next wave of information technology leaders.

Big data is opening a new era in the job market to those skilled in fields such as artificial intelligence, data science, data analysis and cyber security, all of which are at the heart of a new Bachelor of Computer Science degree being launched at Griffith University in 2016. Graduates equipped with majors including data sciences and artificial intelligence will be well placed to ride the wave of these future job prospects.

This is a very exciting space. We are not just future proofing, this degree will actually solve the career needs right now in these areas.


Meanwhile, perhaps some of those future leaders will declare themselves when GovHack Gold Coast returns for 2015.

GovHack is an annual open data competition held throughout Australia and New Zealand and which attracts the best and brightest young minds working with government open data. Over two days, teams access open data and create a proof of concept and a video that tells the story of how the data may be reused. Many of the concepts are innovative community apps or websites.

GovHack provides students with an excellent opportunity to work with industry and government to generate ideas and code solutions addressing important problems facing our community and the nation.


What: GovHack Gold Coast 2015, hosted by Griffith University and sponsored by City of Gold Coast.

Where: Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus – Building G30 Room 1.08

When: July 3-5, 2015

More here


Professor Michael Blumenstein