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Mega bytes

Summit examines new roles in ‘big data’

The amount of data being produced every day around the world is rising rapidly. It is estimated that 2.5 quintillion bytes (2.5 billion gigabytes) of data is currently generated every day, from things such as sensors used to gather climate information, posts on media sites, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, and cell phone GPS signals, to name just a few.

It is believed that managing such a huge amount of "big data" will be an important aspect in business for years to come, with its increasing use becoming a feature of almost every industry and business function.

This topic will go under the microscope at the upcoming World Internet Developer Summit 2013, where organisations from around the world will share insights on the prospects of big data and how to satisfy the demand for talent in the industry.

Matt Valentine, enterprise solutions director at Microsoft Hong Kong, says that data scientists who are able to analyse trends in big data and come up with solutions to optimise business operations are highly sought-after by IT service providers and commercial companies. "Historically, data management and business solutions are separated. The use of big data is a marriage between IT and business," he says.

Before the emergence of big data, IT departments took care of storing and managing data, while business units produced reports. "In the age of big data, the role is combined and businesses are looking for data scientists who are able to come up with new insights through analysing data," Valentine says.

With big data, data analysis is no longer the reserve of specialists such as statisticians and data miners, but can be conducted by anybody who has a creative business insight, Valentine believes. "The job of a data scientist is to turn data into useful information and business outcomes. They need to be able to analyse and interpret data and then, hopefully, come up with insights," he says.

Becoming a data scientist does not necessarily require an IT background. The key is being able to take a creative approach towards data and come up with solutions to help an organisation make better business decisions.

"One needs to have knowledge of data management and understand the business and the industry," Valentine says. "Big data is just starting to develop and, at the moment, there is no specific training that caters for data scientists. This makes it very difficult for businesses to employ such talent."

Big data in Hong Kong is still relatively new, but its application is certainly growing. "The financial sector, which manages a huge amount of data on a daily basis, was one of the first to employ big data to help improve its operations," Valentine says.

"The retail industry is also keen to make use of big data. With the use of mobile devices, businesses can track the behaviour of consumers like never before. The huge amount of data generated is extremely helpful to market their products and services. I definitely see a bright future for Hong Kong's big data sector."

The theme of this year's World Internet Developer Summit - hosted by Internet Society Hong Kong, Cyberport and the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation - is "Big Data: Cloud - Scale your Application to Million Users". The summit will feature conferences and workshops for participants to learn about the latest techniques and trends in internet development, while offering a good chance for IT people to share experiences and exchange ideas.

World Internet Developer Summit 2013

Date 27 and 28 June
Time 9.30am-5.30pm
Venues Cyberport (27 June),
Hong Kong Science Park (28 June)