Big Data, Big Dollars: $15 Trillion of Economic Impact in 15 Years

Sometimes when we’re all putting our heads down and rushing into the future, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. It can never seem like the right time to take a breath, look around and appreciate the monumental changes happening all around us.

Fortunately, the folks at the Software Alliance (BSA, formerly the Business Software Alliance) just did that for us. In a sweeping new paper, “What’s the big deal about Big Data?” they pull together a lot of threads around the impact of Big Data.

Spoiler alert: It’s huge. Perhaps even bigger than most of us would imagine.

If that seems to possibly overstate things, or maybe smell of a bit too much hype, then just consider one figure from the report.

The BSA estimates that Big Data could have a $15 trillion impact on global GDP by 2030. And in making that projection, these folks have decided to be massively conservative. To reach that goal, global industry would have to become just 1 percent more efficient over the next 15 years.

It might be harder to set the bar any lower than that.

More optimistically, the report also reminds us that the Big Data revolution has the potential to touch just about every industry, everywhere.

“Software innovation continues to spark unprecedented advances that transform the world around us, empower us as individuals, and grow our economies,” the report says. “Yet the full potential of this digital transformation can only be realized if we tap the potential of the data these innovations have unleashed.”

If you’re unconvinced (granted, if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already been converted), the report also contains ample examples of the breadth of Big Data’s reach: Farmers around the world using sensor data to reinvent their farms; a building in the United Arab Emirates that uses data to produce more energy than it uses; taxis in Sweden that use data to cut traffic and auto emissions.

And on, and on, and on.

But this future, as thrilling as it might be, is not a slam dunk. And the report summarizes the challenges ahead: More effectively cleaning up bad data; an abundance of smart and creative data scientists to ask the right questions; more effective data analysis tools; and sensible regulation that helps build trust and security without hampering innovation.

That said, if these challenges are met, the payoffs could be huge. Better, more effective healthcare. A cleaner environment. A more robust economy. More innovative businesses.

For all the day-to-day struggles to get this right, and make these pieces all come together, it’s always good to remember that these bigger, loftier goals are what we’re all ultimately striving to reach.

“Our challenge is to harness data and put it to work, using our ingenuity to make sense of the valuable learnings locked within it,” the report says. “It is this ability to process data and transform observations into insights, and insights into answers, which enables us to achieve meaningful solutions to today’s significant challenges.”