Big Data – Doing Good?

    Startups from across the globe are visiting right now the Nordic and Baltic region to learn and to give insights into their markets.

    Impact companies from BEAM program were openly discussing their view on business and data analytics among others in a side event of SLUSH.

    Photo: Shutterstock

    BEAM is a joined program of Tekes and Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs to foster business among impact companies. Impact meaning companies focusing on building sustainable businesses in emerging countries and also converting them to the local home market.

    The idea sounds reasonable. Obviously you cannot improve other regions issues from the ivory tower because the final product will most likely fail at local consumer behaviour and lack of expected infrastructure. Additionally it makes sense to improve utilisation into local markets here as well, even though it is less sexy, usually the user group may be rather small if the business model is not transformed well.

    I joined the big data and analytics group which was surprisingly small at the beginning expecting that all companies are utilising data. Of course if you think impact companies from emerging markets, the first cliché which pops up are PR words like education, clean water and health care.

    Exchanging ideas with entrepreneurs from Tanzania, Kenya, Brazil among others resulted in vivid experience exchange from those quite diverse markets. It is an easy way to scrutinise different societies and regions which face diverse challenges how to gather and consolidate data not to mention how to create business through data.

    When we from Baltic Sea Region talk about how the improvements in interpreting big data can create new businesses, tailor new products and services, then a certain infrastructure and legislation is already set as minimum criteria. Nevertheless sometimes it comes down to the very essential question of how to actually gather and use reliable data in first place. What if you have to consider how to protect customer data and even how to protect the company and founders themselves from the local legislator?

    In Tanzania it can be about potential changes in legislation which forces founders to set up their servers abroad to protect the user data but cannot protect the founder him/herself from potential charges. Lack of infrastructure pushes for creative ideas since internet has occasionally to be a minor criteria to collect digital data from specific user groups. The demand towards local governments to invest in reliable network are high but not always very promising to fulfil in near future.

    So yes you may have to rethink product features if you thought it is applicable in all markets, because internet and free speech are not human rights in every country. You may think “that is not my target market (right now) so who cares”. Think about customers globally, not locations, defined customer segments or this one problem you want to solve.

    If someone can develop a kick-ass solution gathering data without reliable network how well this could be used in crisis situations or during power blackouts? UI and UX for user groups with high illiteracy may be applicable as solution for people with debility of sight, dyslexia or any language barrier.

    There was a great crowd of impact companies from around the world but where were the Finnish and Nordic cases? I am sure the visiting companies are meeting with quite a few locals but this event could have been a great opportunity for those companies not on any finalised “must meet” list or define themselves as an impact company.

    It is actually very enlightening to go on side events just for the sake of meeting people from very diverse industries and listening their thoughts. Not always but often it turns out that those meetings are much more enriching than chatting with the usual suspects.

    Some of the impact companies present at SLUSH can be found here.

    Any hint about analytics companies from the region enabling companies to understand their data to improve their processes? Let me know! I will be at SLUSH of course.