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As featured on PhilStar:  Data is everywhere in the digital world


Nowadays, doing research is almost synonymous with doing a Google search. Going through the bookshelves to find a book on a specific topic is akin to finding the right keywords to search on Google. Doing the latter requires minimal effort, as it can be done anywhere at any time, as long as you have a smart device connected to the Internet. In a short amount of time, you get hundreds, if not thousands, of web pages related to your keywords.

Getting that much information from just a few words would have been unthinkable just a few decades ago. Statista reported that 64.2 zettabytes of data were "created, captured, copied, and consumed globally" in 2020 and that it would grow to 180 zettabytes by 2025. For context, 1 zettabyte is equivalent to 1021 bytes! It might be tough to make sense of such large numbers, but it's not that surprising if you think about it.

Data can be thought of as anything created when we use any technology: writing and sending emails, meeting with people online through video calls, posting on social media, doing some online shopping, and even just clicking on links on web pages. Data is everywhere in the digital world. Thus, those who know how to properly utilize it are at the forefront of the digital age.

Alexis Julia Canaria
Junior Data Specialist
KPMG in the Philippines

From banking to healthcare to marketing, data is used in fraud detection, policymaking, and product improvement to stay relevant in a fast-paced environment further accelerated by digital transformation. Huge industries are in a league of their own, as the type of data they possess is by no means like the traditional data that a normal individual can acquire. This varied and valuable data that can be generated in large quantities and at fast speeds is called Big Data.

Smartphones are commonplace devices that can generate Big Data. Most have accelerometers, that can be used by fitness applications to track the user’s steps or any other measurable physical activity daily. Wearables, such as smart watches, can be paired with smartphones to generate more health-related data from the user, such as heart rate and blood oxygen. Fitness applications can then use granular physical activity data to estimate the number of calories you burned throughout the day, forecast the number of steps you will take for the next few days, create personalized workout and diet plans, and measure sleep quality each night.

Smartphones also have GPS, which tracks the user’s location whenever it is activated. This can help navigation software generate optimal point-to-point routes by identifying and avoiding areas where there is heavy vehicular traffic. On a more ominous note, however, some mobile applications that have access to a smartphone’s location may utilize the data for more targeted marketing purposes, which a lot of users may not be aware of.

Besides smartphones, there is also the Internet of Things (IoT). According to Oracle Philippines, IoT “describes the network of physical objects – ’things’ – that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies to connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the internet”.

One application of IoT is in the development of smart cities. Big Data obtained from IoT devices can help in identifying areas with high crime rates, which can help ensure the safety of citizens. Sensors can also be installed in underground water systems for water pressure monitoring and early leak detection to mitigate repair costs. Those examples are worthwhile investments in helping boost the quality of life of people living in smart cities.

Indeed, data plays a huge role in the betterment of society. Data serves as the foundation of modern technology, from health trackers to wide-scale smart cities, from individuals to businesses to policymakers. Data is proving to be the new oil of the 21st century, with Clive Humby calling it as early as 2006, and The Economist echoing the sentiment in 2017. Being able to harness data is a new type of power, and it is evident by how companies are scrambling to fix their data infrastructure and hiring data engineers, data scientists, and Big Data developers at an unprecedented rate.

However, data cannot be used just by itself as it must undergo rigorous cleaning and transformation first for it to be considered something of value, and that is worth investing time and resources on. Market Research Future has forecasted that the global data analytics market would grow to $3,03,252.3 million by 2030, while also citing that a huge driver of this accelerated growth is the rise in the number of businesses utilizing data analytics tools to make faster and better decisions.

On the flip side, there is the matter of data ethics and security, which is highly relevant to businesses seeking to incorporate data analytics in their internal processes. Both are complex topics that warrant separate discussions, but what is important to note is that upholding data ethics and ensuring proper data security strengthens the trust between businesses and customers, and is just as important as data itself. As the famous adage goes, “with great power comes great responsibility”.

At the end of the day, everyone benefits from the recent boom in data, but it can also be turned into something that causes harm. As humans capable of conscientious thinking, we must always remind ourselves to use data for good, and never for the opposite.

Alexis Julia Canaria
Junior Data Specialist
KPMG in the Philippines

Alexis Julia Canaria is a junior data specialist from the technology consulting group of KPMG in the Philippines (R.G. Manabat & Co.), a Philippine partnership and a member firm of the KPMG global organization of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Limited, a private English company limited by guarantee. The firm has been recognized as Tier 1 in transfer pricing practice and general corporate tax practice by the International Tax Review. For more information, you may reach out to junior data specialist Alexis Julia Canaria or technology consulting partner Gilbert T. Trinchera through ph-kpmgmla@kpmg.com, social media, or visit www.home.kpmg/ph.

This article is for general information purposes only and should not be considered professional advice to a specific issue or entity. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent KPMG International or KPMG in the Philippines.