Updated May 8th, 2024 at 21:20 IST

Why Data Is The New Oil Today

In today’s age, the most powerful economy will be the one which can master data. India has every chance to be a data first economy and be the frontrunner.

Reported by: Namrata Kohli
Why Data Is The New Oil Today | Image:Unsplash

We have all heard of the line “data is the new oil” or “data is the new currency”. And there is power at play with data colonization and such trends already being recorded especially during Covid 19 pandemic. Data is the bedrock that has enabled the many advancements in the digital age, and is now powering the AI revolution. It is no exaggeration to say that to win in the AI age, you have to master data. 

How is India poised to be a data first economy? India has the largest penetration of mobile phones and is inarguably, one of the best digital economies in the world today, said Nitin Seth, Co-founder & CEO Incedo, a technology company based out of New Jersey who recently unveiled his book ‘Mastering the Data Paradox.’ He went on to describe how low costs of data, an agile IT industry and an age pyramid that boasted of over a billion people under the age of 35-40 years were among the fundamental factors that were boosting India's chances.


“If you look at the various waves of the Industrial Revolution, you will see that every wave has caused a change in the world order. Given how the digital age is often referred to as the fourth Industrial Revolution, I very strongly think that this is our moment," he said. He cited several reasons that contributed to his optimism. “For starters, there is smartphone penetration. Some 900 million Indians have access to mobile phones which is more than the number of people with access to sanitation. Another reason is the Aadhaar stack that is building on capabilities.” He also mentioned that with the access becoming so much more, the opportunity is huge and the next generation of entrepreneurs is not going to come from big metros, but from smaller towns and the rural side of the country. Historically, data is power. But with the democratization of data, today whether you are a farmer sitting in Phagwara village or a shopkeeper in Gujarat or a student in Kerala, the same content is available to each and everyone. 

Data is unseen, but it is simply the largest force today, both in business and technology, and is kind of affecting every aspect of that. So, whenever you watch Web Series on Netflix, or go shopping at Amazon, every click is being recorded.  And this is a trifecta that is emerging or as Seth calls it the “holy trinity” of digital, data, AI - the holy trail that records every aspect of our human existence. So digital is not because of data, but digital is producing most of the data of the world. Data is the foundation for AI, but AI is also a means for managing data and Generative AI (GenAI) is the tipping point. 


What were some of the key takeaways from his session? Data has exploded 150,000 times in the last two decades. Problem is that of data deluge, amidst which actionable insights remain scarce- a dilemma akin to ‘water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink.’ We should start with identifying the problem at hand, and then find the relevant data rather than hoarding data and wasting time and resources on processing unnecessary data. It's not right first time but it's fail fast time... and one should not chase perfection.

Seth also highlighted the three Vs of data i.e. variety, volume and velocity. Volume is the sheer size or explosion of data. That most of the data today is real time, and therefore most systems, most actions that happen are also real time is velocity. And variety implies that the number of data sources have exploded, and most of them are open source, available to everybody, which is a very beautiful thing. 


Personalisation is the important thing in this trifecta and after personalized medicine, Seth anticipates the next wave of change to sweep the education sector. He said- “I'm pretty sure that education over the next five years or ten years is set for an overhaul. In ancient times, our model of education was a highly personalized model and the guru would observe their shishyas for a period of time and then really customize the education for them. And again, in that whole industrial scale, we lost that. Today the whole education system is flawed. But with tools available with technology, we should be able to understand every child and customize the content. I think there's a lot of experimentation needed to play that out.”

Data privacy is amongst the biggest challenge from an individual's perspective. And Seth advocates that at a global level, there has to be a consistent global data privacy policy and laws, otherwise there could be a lot of challenges.


Data itself is neither good nor bad. it is as we see, use, hear, apply it. He ended his talk with the quote – “Yatha pinde tatha brahmande..” As is individual, so is the universe. 


Published May 8th, 2024 at 18:44 IST