Big Data: African service providers must act now

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.

Research conducted by Cisco's Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) suggests that Big Data promises opportunities that cannot be ignored by African service providers. (Image: Chris Tredger)

Yet Big Data promises opportunities that cannot be ignored. This was underscored at Expo South Africa 2013, where Cisco outlined its research on Big Data, conducted by the company’s Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG).

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. 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 daily interactions.

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?

According to research conducted by IBSG, CIO’s globally in 2011 found Big Data to be the number one most talked about topic amongst CIO’s today.  Even 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.

“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,” says Peter Ford, Managing Director, Cisco Consulting Services.

Staff Writer