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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

UAE firms must illuminate dark data or miss out on massive opportunity, experts say

Dark data - or digital information that is stored but not used - accounts for 48% of total data in the UAE

BDA studies large volumes of data to discover unseen links and correlations
BDA studies large volumes of data to discover unseen links and correlations

The UAE is home to a massive accumulation of dark data in key industries, the untapped potential of which represents a business-critical opportunity, according to a new report.

Dark data - or digital information that is stored but not used - accounts for 48 per cent of the total data stored by organisations in the UAE, according to the 2018 UAE Databerg Report released last week by Veritas Technologies, a California-based global data management firm.

“Large volumes of dark data that stays in the UAE points to the fact that managing dark data is becoming a business-critical issue for organisations,” said Damian Wilk, senior regional director – Middle East, Veritas Technologies.

“By identifying the value of such data, organisations can move towards faster decision-making, greater operational efficiency and increased productivity.”

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In most cases, businesses leave dark data dormant for practical reasons. The data might take too long to clean and any information gleaned from organising it would then be too old to be useful. In such instances, records may be incomplete or outdated or be stored in file formats or on devices that have become obsolete.

Examples of dark data include server log files that could provide clues to website visitor behaviour, customer call detail records that incorporate unstructured consumer sentiment data and mobile geolocation data that could reveal traffic patterns that would help with business planning, according to TechTarget, a publisher of data security information.

Bringing dark data into the light - that is, actually using it - can create new revenue streams, reduce waste and cut down on costs by providing insights that can make businesses more efficient and attuned to their customers' needs.

Big data analytics studies large volumes of data to discover unseen links and correlations. Companies are increasingly adopting big data analysis applications to turn dark data into usable information to better understand consumer behaviour, make decisions and offer more tailored services.

In 2016, big data analytics generated around $2 billion (Dh7.3bn) in revenue in Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, and is expected to reach $3.2bn by 2020, according to Statista.

“Data has been the most valuable commodity since the industrial revolution...there is huge potential in the data that is yet to be managed,” said Hemesh Dogiparthi, director of technical services and support at Dubai-headquartered StorIT, a specialist in enterprise data storage. He said that tapping into dark data could help address pressing matters like climate change, global hunger and poverty.

Clean data – or data that is useful to businesses – has more than doubled from 8 per cent in 2016 to 19 per cent in 2018 in the UAE, as per the Databerg report. The rise in clean data has led to a significant reduction in so-called 'Redundant, Obsolete or Trivial (ROT) data' from 43 to 33 per cent in the past two years. ROT data is documented by companies but presents no business value.

The public sector carries the largest data burden with 42 per cent redundant data, followed by industry (36 per cent), finance (33 per cent) and utilities (30 per cent).

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“While nearly half of UAE organizations’ data is “dark data”, there is reason to be optimistic: “clean data” has more than doubled to 19 percent, showing that CIOs (chief information officers) are prioritising BDA and digital business models,” said Gergi Abboud, sen­ior vice president and general manager of SAP Middle East South – which includes the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.

“Digital officers can implement policies to share data across different lines of business to turn raw data into actionable insights,” said Mr Abboud.

While the big data analytics industry is expected to grow significantly in the coming years to capitalise on dark data, the region is also being tested. Data backup, according to experts, or safely storing this potential treasure trove of ever-increasing business intelligence, is a major challenge and adoption rates of secure data storage remains low.

“You need to backup the big data platform as well as archives of ageing data,” Santhosh Rao, research director at Gartner, a global research and advisory company, told The National. "This is still a new concept and not very evolved in the [MEA] region."