Equitable employment through big data and technology

Equitable employment and jobs, along with leapfrog opportunities, are in the spotlight for CEOs and policy makers at the World Economic Forum on East Asia held in Manila on May 21 to 23. Many of the new employment opportunities will be enabled by technology and big data.

In high-level panels, executives talked about the new ways to leverage big data to address issues, from natural disasters to education systems improvements. 

From better predictive abilities to more efficient processes, big data is starting to affect performances of governments and commercial organizations in the region. Using big data, companies plan for distribution of assistance in emergency situations.

Consumer product companies evaluate customer preferences and online behaviour to customize offers. Manufacturers analyze equipment performance patterns to know the best time for replacements. Insurance and financial service companies structure their offers based on data from customers. Hospitals are using medical data to predict health conditions of patients.

The competitiveness of organizations in the future will depend on their ability to leverage data and generate actionable insights. But who can help them achieve this?

Data scientists – an increasingly popular jobs category – segment and mine big structured and unstructured data sets and interpret analyses and find industry-specific applications for data. The desired profiles of candidates are data scientists with degrees in statistics, math or computer science.

Employment opportunities in the mega-data pool are downstream. By 2015, it is estimated that 4.4 million IT jobs will be created to support big data globally. Each job in big data, as in the IT sector, is expected to create 3 more job opportunities based on insights and innovations unlocked from this data.

By 2020 the world will generate 50 times the amount of information it produces today. At the same time, the IT staff to manage this information will increase by 1.5 times. Business leaders said they experience at least a moderate shortage of required skills to run their business. This proportion reaches 43% in Europe. 

In response to the big data skills shortage, in the Philippines, for example, the Commission on Higher Education adopted the adding data analytics as part of the school curriculum. Executives from the region estimate the need for language skills to translate mathematical models.

In Europe and the US, the structure of the C-suites has been shifted with the creation of new roles, such as chief data scientists, chief digital officers. These C-level executives are responsible for company-wide data governance and exploit information and generate insights.

A debate is emerging that, now with big data analytics, most jobs can be replaced by lower-skilled workers. A huge proportion of data analytics jobs are outsources from established markets to countries in East Asia region, including Philippines, placing Philippines 8th in the number of freelancers working online on Elance.

A case in point – the largest big data facility in the world belongs to the US federal government. This new $2 billion Utah Data Center is designed to gather and house a yottabyte, and it will only employ about 200 people on site, mostly electricians, engineers and IT specialists. This shows that the physical facilities that will be used to store and process data will require specific technical skills and will not be a major source of employment. But most of the jobs will come from the analytical side and the new skills are needed.

The rapid expansion of big data analytics demonstrates that the opportunities are easy to seize and leverage. A great example is the active use of social media analytics during the Haiyan typhoon. Results can be transformational.

Smart leveraging of data and incorporating it into business processes and decision-making is winning half the battle in remaining competitive. As highlighted by Mikael Hagstrom from SAS, exploiting insights from big data will help organizations move away from a traditional intuitive decision-making processes, which can be described as “fail and fix” or “fail fast”.

The new management approach enabled by big data will be “predict to prevent” and “predict to perfect”. And East Asia is becoming well placed to capitalize on these opportunities. – Rappler.com

Elena Kvochko is a Manager of IT and Telecommunications Industries at the World Economic Forum, USA.

For more about the 2014 World Economic Forum on East Asia, visit Rappler's microsite.

 

Unemployment image and binary data images from Shutterstock.