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Every day the world is generating 4 Quadrillion Bytes of data (that is 10^16) and the total amount of data in the world is growing about 5 fold every year.
The challenge is to take this vast tsunami of data and turn it into useful information that we can digest and use. Often there is public data, freely available, that can be added to private data to create whole new services. Obvious examples would be combining company data on ice cream sales, with weather forecast data to predict demand for the product, but almost every business has the opportunity to make similar combinations to add value to their business.
The second step is 'data visualisation'. Florence Nightingale is mostly famous for her great work with sick soldiers during the Crimea War, but it is quite possible that her most enduring legacy will be the invention of the 'Pie Chart' as an effective way of presenting her dry mortality figures in such a visually clear manner that the military could not ignore her message. Today we can automate the process that enables us to explore the digital landscape in such a visually clear manner that relevant correlations are immediately apparent.
In the past statistical analysis has been the way to understand the word. You take a small and hopefully representative sample, then analyse it to gain insight. Today we are often able to obtain the full data set which enables us to avoid the simplifications and approximations of sampling.
Watch Hans Rosling explaining the world with his amazing statistics - view