Africa's technology and business leaders have in their hands an unprecedented opportunity to surpass their global counterparts.
If we can harness the vast and growing sources of information known as'Big Data', members of the C-suite -- particularly Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and Chief Information Officers (CIOs), who increasingly share the responsibility for growth and innovation -- stand to not only significantly boost our organisations' bottom lines, but catapult our brands into positions of global leadership and best practice.
But to do so requires uniquely African approaches to the selection and use of Big Data which align with our continent's fast-evolving socio-economic and technological landscape.
The currency of data
What is Big Data? The Internet and computing technologies have, particularly in the past decade, resulted in exponential growth in digital information which exists in the world -- in fact, more than 90 per cent of data currently in existence was created in the past two years.
We call this abundance of information'Big Data', and it has seismic implications for consumers, technologists, and business leaders alike.
Analysis of Big Data can identify trends, weaknesses, and opportunities which would be otherwise invisible to human observation -- as long as the right tools and strategies are in place to convert these stockpiles of information into meaningful insights.
Many commentators are calling data the'next commodity' : like natural resources traditionally, those who can access and refine it will have increasingly clear advantages and growth potential over those who don't.
CMOs and CIOs will need to work together to turn Big Data's potential into tangible insights and improvements. Alliances between marketers and IT staff are already becoming more frequent, and for good reason.
They both count innovation as a major part of their portfolios; they share common goals around improving quality of services; and their efforts are held responsible for core organisational growth -- or decline.
Big Data has relevance to all these areas and the complementary skills of the CMO and CIO are essential to its effective use.
Organisations the world over are taking steps to build Big Data into how they make decisions, invest, and even safeguard the future of entire populations.
But retrofitting existing technologies to manage and analyse Big Data is typically a prolonged and technically intensive task. By incorporating Big Data at the very foundation of their investment in technology and strategy, African CMOs and CIOs have the chance to get ahead of their global counterparts in their ability to make smarter, faster decisions.