Digital gold – the importance of data for businesses and citizens

Data is considered digital gold. Accordingly, there is currently a gold-digger mood in German companies. Achim Berg, president of the digital association Bitkom, explains the importance of data in our society in an interview with the German trade newspaper. He describes how very different data is collected to optimize business processes and improve the customer experience. The success of the data evaluation depends on the degree of digitization of the individual companies. It is important not to lose sight of data protection and to bring benefits to citizens through digitalisation. Decentralized data storage could help. Berg expects the importance of data to increase in the future. We present his central theses from the interview.

Data is essential for innovation and optimized business processes

Berg emphasizes that data is the driving force behind all the innovations of today. Companies would need data to optimize their business processes or to make their offerings particularly customer-friendly and individual. Similarly, new business models could only be developed and established if the necessary data were available.

For Berg, it is no longer conceivable that the economy could develop without data. This applies to almost all sectors of the economy, from industry to mobility to agriculture and health care. All companies try to compile the largest possible pool of data that can be used in everyday work. This can be done by the company managements themselves or by individual departments within the company.

Using different types of data

Berg emphasizes that data is not the same as data. Different companies could particularly benefit from different data and use it to expand their business processes. For example, there is customer data that is helpful in optimizing your own offerings. With such data, it is possible to assess the functionality of the distribution channels and, if necessary, to improve them. The goal here must always be to address the target group precisely and to inspire them for their own offers.

However, it is equally important to collect and evaluate data from internal processes. Such information can be used to show how well the individual departments of the company are working and whether, for example, a machine could fail in the near future. In this way, optimization potentials can be exploited and economically damaging failures can be avoided. Those who have data at their disposal can predict the future more accurately and thus prepare themselves for it in the best possible way.

Success in data analysis depends on the degree of digitization of companies

According to Berg, how successful companies handle their data does not depend on the size of the company. Rather, the degree of digitization of the respective companies had to be taken into account. Those who have always focused on digitalization and subjected the company’s own processes to a digital transformation benefit particularly from the existing data today. It is always a matter of letting the data collection and evaluation grow naturally and not to arrange it from the outside. Only then would it become acceptable to the workforce and the data would actually be applied and used.

Those who, on the other hand, have not yet dealt with digitization and have moved it to an unspecified point in the future, are currently lagging behind when it come to the use of data. For example, it could happen that precious data is collected and is generally available, but there is a lack of the necessary resources and competences for an evaluation. Companies where this is the case urgently need to retrofit in order not to go down against digital competition.

These benefits bring data to companies

When asked about the relevance of data to companies, Berg refers to a study carried out in early 2020. This showed that many companies use digital technologies for their business processes. For example, 13% of craft enterprises use smart software to align working hours with their project status. In addition, 12% of the companies surveyed use tracking systems, which play an important role in the control of machinery and equipment. 10% also rely on digital technologies when it comes to predictive maintenance.

For Berg, such developments show that digitalization has basically arrived in companies. It helps to save time in the individual processes and to simplify the operations. . In the meantime, 12% of German industrial companies have already started using AI for their work. This could improve productivity and also optimize error detection. This would reduce downtime, which would significantly improve production.

Don’t lose sight of data protection

According to Berg, it is important that there is no unbridled data collection frenzy, but that clear limits are placed on the collection and use of data. He refers to the General Data Protection Regulation, which is intended to protect personal data against misuse in the best possible way. However, he also criticises the fact that the implementation of the GDPR is not yet uniform in the various EU Member States. This would not always allow comprehensive protection of sensitive data. Often, however, companies do not even have to use personal data. Instead, machine and sensor data would be exploited to optimize the processes of the respective companies.

How citizens benefit from digitalisation

According to Berg, however, it is not only the companies that benefit. For example, digital map services could be used to optimise traffic management in a city. More and more customers are attracted to digital voice assistants, which make their daily lives easier at home and at work. In addition, a digital evaluation of data in medicine could help to facilitate investigations and promote the health of patients. Among other things, Berg mentions the evaluation of X-ray images and CT scans as possible areas of application of digital data.

Possible benefits of decentralized data storage

In recent years, cloud computing has become increasingly important in the economy. All company data is stored centrally in a cloud and is available to all authorized users at any time. However, this solution has not proved functional for many companies. That’s why more and more companies are relying on edge computing. Here, data is not stored centrally in the cloud, but decentrally at the edge of the network. They are therefore located on certain terminals or within a company, and can be used there by all beneficiaries.

For edge computing to work optimally, unified data and customer interfaces would be needed. With these, it is possible to use and evaluate the data independently of certain devices. According to Berg, such interfaces can be achieved, for example, through standardization and standardization processes. He expects them to gradually establish themselves as a standard on the market.

The relevance of data will increase in the future

Data already plays an extremely important role in the economy. Berg expects this trend to intensify in the coming years. For him, the society and the economy of the future will be digital, so measures for a digital transformation must be taken today. He sees positive developments in politics to support this trend. For him, it is not so crucial to create individual players such as Google chains in the collection of data, but rather to create concrete framework conditions for business and society in the handling of digital data. The aim must be to maximise the benefits for businesses and citizens in the analysis of data.

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