Data is everywhere. Some say it is the new gold. Storing large volumes of data has become economical than ever before as computers have become cheaper and more powerful. Data can be sourced abundantly from Web documents, databases, sensors, social media etc. So with so much of data available to us, why are we lacking in knowledge?
The reason is simple. It’s because we haven’t found out how to make sense of all these data to be able to benefit us. You see, data in its raw form is ‘dirty’ or unstructured such as those obtained from news articles, customer survey forms, tweets, videos, emails, blog posts etc. To be understandable and useful in making business or political decisions, these data would need to be processed or mined in order to discover interesting patterns or knowledge.
Data mining is the focus of many organizations today. In retail, telecommunications, banking, health etc. The current trend is to see how big data sourced through several means can be analyzed to provide information about user behavior. The knowledge discovered from the analysis can be used to improve the services of the organization such as in providing a quality user experience for the customer.
For instance, Google recently announced that it will be launching its free WiFi service – Google Station Program – in five Nigerian cities – Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Kaduna, Enugu, and Ibadan – by 2019. It was also stated that Google will monetize the service through advert placements. I’m sure you can guess that the ads will be selected for the users by simply monitoring the sites they visit when they use the service. This is valuable data for Google.
By now you must have heard about the data breach suffered by Facebook in 2016. Then, a UK-based data analytics firm known as Cambridge Analytica used users’ data without their permission to run targeted political ads. The ads were aimed at influencing their votes in the UK’s Brexit referendum and 2016 US Presidential election.
Also, have you ever watched CNN just after a US President addressed the American people? During their commentary, they would talk about how many times certain words such as “terrorism”, “economy”, “immigration” etc. were mentioned in his speech. This is done to have an understanding of the key policies or reforms that the administration would focus on.
I decided to try this out with the 2018 New Year’s Speech given by the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari to find a theme for his administration’s planned policies and projects for the year. I produced a word cloud using R programming language, which is a data analysis tool, to showcase the most frequently used words. ‘Will’ was found to be used the most indicating determination to carry out the tasks at hand.
I could go on and on with more examples of data mining applications, but I think you get the picture. Although some of the practices by organizations in collecting user data raise ethical concerns, new regulations being introduced such as the EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) aim to ensure the protection of users’ data, and openness of online services and businesses in dealing with any data collected, stored or processed.
So it all comes down to this: how can you as a local business owner or startup founder utilize the vast amount of available data to gain a competitive advantage in your business? The answer to this question would help in developing a good marketing strategy, in working out customer profiling and retention, in identifying potential customers, and in market segmentation.
For example, a business owner that owns an online grocery store can identify the items that are bought together by sufficiently many customers and ensure that those items are placed next to each other on their shopping catalog.
If you’re a business owner and you’d like to learn more about data mining, there are several materials online to teach you the fundamentals. Also, you can make enquiries at an innovation hub closest to you. Some of them such as Ken Saro-Wiwa Innovation Hub in Port Harcourt offer training on data mining.