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March 14, 2023 45 mins

We hear a lot about Big Data. But what does it actually mean? Is it, quite simply, lots of data? Or is there more to it than that? Spoiler alert, there is. A lot more. In this episode, we're taking a look at the age of insight, and how Big Data has evolved from a technical concept to a way of extracting enormous value from the fumes of data meant for other purposes. We'll be meeting some of the people who have been taking raw data and adding context and insight to open up a world of value and possibility. We'll also be asking whether Big Data can get too big, and at what point it simply becomes too much to economically handle. We'll also be looking at whether there's a line to be drawn between collecting insights, and invasive mining of our lives for their data value.

In this episode, we'll be meeting with Professor Vedran Podobnik, lecturer at the University of Zagreb and Global Lead for Data, Analytics & AI at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Vedran has been in the field of data, analytic and AI for over 15 years, and understands how the field (and the definition of Big Data) has evolved and grown over the years. He also understands better than anyone the unique challenges that a 'bigger, faster, better, more valuable' approach to our data can bring.

Heather Savory probably understands big data in practice better than anyone. In an incredibly varied career, she was the deputy national statistician for Britain's Office for National Statistics. She's also worked on Big Data for the United Nations, and currently sits as the Non Executive Director for the UK Parliament Information Authority. In short, she knows a lot about Big Data, and has spent much of her career transforming big public bodies to take advantage of it and embrace the age of insight. As the spearhead of the drive to open up data in British politics, she has seen first hand the incredible results which can be achieved when disparate and siloed datasets are combined, layered, and opened up to the outside world. She also understands first hand the challenges involved in convincing people to open up their data to scrutiny, and the challenges that can present organisations.

But is data alone enough? Well, no. Insights require human expertise to analyse, verify and act on them. That's where Dr Louise Blair comes in. She's the senior analyst and Head of Vaccines and Variants at Airfinity, a data analytics and insights company specialising in healthcare. Airfinity compares data from drug trials, medical reports, news articles and disease heatmaps around the world to offer advice and insight which helps Governments, the pharmaceutical industry and health services plan for the future and expect the unexpected. Taking data from as diverse sources as livestock markets, they are able to offer advice in a way that's never been possible before - by using human intuition to compare vast siloed datasets from different sources. 

Combining datasets can also be invaluable when it comes to predicting future threats in other spheres. George Webster is Chief Security Architect at HSBC (you may remember him from our last episode, on Ransomware). George has a background in using AI and insight to drive human efficiencies when it comes to cyber security, thinning out the field of false positives and helping identify genuine threats. He understands that a reliance on data alone isn't enough, and that even in the digital sphere, big data and the insights we can gain from it is best utilised to help, rather than replace, human expertise.

The long show notes for this episode can be found here:

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