A fad or a life-changing discipline? The obsession with data science is far from over. Dubbed the sexiest job of the 21st century by Harvard Business Review offers more than just sunshine and rainbows. By that, I of course mean, admiration and high salaries.
Is the hype justifiable though?
#1 We have a lot more data now
#2 The tech giants depend on data science
#3 Data science is being used for social good
Let’s dive into each of these:
Google is now catering to over 40,000 searches per second. By the time you’ve read the first section of this blog, 4.8 million searches will have been carried out. I’ve written an entire article on Why we have so much data?
Databases are over 30 years old now. However, their prime function of data storage and security has now been complemented with analysis and insights with the help of Big Data Lakes and data science algorithms.
Whilst previously, a BI (Business Intelligence) function would be dealing with large amounts of data with clunky software and visualisation tools; the introduction of solid mathematical modelling tools and endless processing power has helped make this discipline a success.
So, it’s not surprising that companies want to capitalise on these huge swathes of data to provide actionable insights and help their bottom line.
And anything that positively impacts the bottom line, is rewarded with more investment and good scale-up opportunities.
The 2019 report by The Royal Society’s report on “Dynamics of data science skills” found that between 2014-2019, demand was off the charts (+230%).
Although this report is industry-wide, the tech industry specifically depends on the analysis of data to improve their service, open new lines of revenue or plain old monitor their consumer behaviours.
This is also one of the most popular industries for new graduate recruitment; which in turn fuels the hype. Even for technology consultancies, most graduates are keen to be working in data science-related projects to improve their knowledge and contribute to society.
The tech industry is also invested heavily in IoT (Internet of Things), which is producing more data than the entire human population put together. Moving away from the basics of simply analysing the consumption of these devices; data science allows for prediction when these devices could become faulty.
These kinds of actionable insights are what is referred to as the prime benefit of data science techniques.
Let’s be honest, not everyone is chasing high salaries and tall ivory towers.
Data science is also being used for many social causes like developing sustainable fishing framework using ocean marine and satellite data. Or improving traffic in areas of pinch-point to improve commuters’ lifestyle and reduce pollution.
The Alan Turing Institute is the national institute for data science and artificial intelligence. And they’re doing some great work in researching some of the key social challenges.
In this pandemic world, how can we forget about the healthcare industry? Several resources are available online that are tracking not just the numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths, but also models to predict the next wave. Similarly, data science techniques were used to improve the contact tracing methods.
With so much data available in the world; how to apply data science techniques ethically and ensure the algorithms are inherently not prejudiced is a key ask for the next generation of data scientists.
So, we’ve learnt how the acceleration of digitisation, the huge impact of the tech industry and data science for social good has led to an obsession with data science across the world.
I do believe, this is not hype and instead, is a culmination of different skills like statistical analysis, data management, analytics and data storytelling. I also expect this to continue along with more adoption of Big Data and migration to the Cloud.
If you’re still reading this, I hope you’ve found some value in this blog post.
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Also, check out my other blog on What is the Value of Your Data