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Cloud taking big data analytics to new heights

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ICT industry experts agree that big data is a reality and that big data analytics could be used strategically to reinforce business operations across Africa, particularly in terms of customer services and marketing. Being able to analyse data and use this insight proactively could result in a competitive advantage.
Willem van Aswegen, Business Intelligence Service Line Lead at Avanade South Africa. (Image source: Avanade South Africa)

However, industry analysts also acknowledge the role that cloud can play in making it easier for companies to bring big data analytics on board and utilise this resource effectively – depending on the use case.

ITNewsAfrica spoke with Business Intelligence Service Line Lead at Avanade South Africa, Willem van Aswegen, about Big Data and what it means for the African enterprise.

What are the advantages of Big Data analytics for businesses in Africa?

Companies get additional insight into their current data and points of view of potential information that they would not have had just by using their existing company information. This can provide them with a proactive means of getting competitive advantage over other companies or just making more sense of things that are happening in other organisations from an operational point of view. It is down to management and planning.

Analysts have stated that there are some challenges to use. Do you agree? and what are the challenges?

Yes. Our research shows that companies have now realised that big data is a reality and this usually means large volumes of data. However, the biggest pitfall seems to be that they are implementing it for the wrong reasons, the result of pressure of the hype surrounding big data, rather than applying it for the right business cases. Secondly, they are not given the right tools and technologies to actually help them, and lack the skills to implement these technologies and concepts effectively.

Is the cost of implementing real-time analytical engines a major challenge?

Cost will definitely play a practical role. It is even more important for companies to first define exactly what their big data needs are and match that carefully with the right technologies that they need to use in order to implement those use cases… so that they do not overspeand unnecessarily on something that will not deliver at the end of the day.

How does the cloud help in terms of Big Data analytics?

With big data there are obviously new processing and volume requirements, and that translates to the need for additional infrastructure. With the cloud available, it is much easier to quickly scale up for processing power and storage, etc. It also comes down to how a company feels in terms of using the cloud. There is still a perception about moving data offsite, security and bandwidth consideration. You need to decide what it will be for your specific use case. But it is definitely a good alternative to get the storage or processing power you need to get your insights.

What is your view on the future take-up and adoption of Big Data analytics in Africa?

I think there is definitely a market for it, especially around proactive marketing in retail and those type channels. In Africa, mobile networks are doing quite well and tracking that information can allow you to know where your customers are and also use these means to get marketing out to them. We can see that big data is not just hype, it is happening. We have done research in 2010 and 2012, and this research shows about 73% of the companies we surveyed have started to do some work around big data… so the reality is there.

Chris Tredger, Online Editor

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