Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

The UK Government’s Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) is aiming “to unlock the power of data and across the wider economy” by developing a National Data Strategy. 

DCMS have released a call for evidence[1], part of which invites a “review of commonly quoted statistics”. Here, DCMS are seeking to understand the veracity of seven of the most widely quoted statistics on data, including:

  1. Data-driven companies are 10% more productive.
  2. The value of the U.K. data economy is £73.3 billion.
  3. The value of the U.K. data economy was £216 billion over the years 2012-2017.
  4. The total amount of global data is expected to grow by 40% year on year for the next decade.
  5. The value of removing fees from all currently available data for re-use is estimated to be £404 million over 10 years.
  6. Effective use of data can create £66 billion of new business and innovation opportunities in the U.K.
  7. 90% of data was created in the last 2 years.

As DCMS recognises, these statistics are widely quoted and oft repeated. Somewhat ironically, the data underpinning these oft quoted “data statistics” is remarkably scant.

However, a consistent theme across these statistics is an implicit call to value data more effectively. This helps organisations make informed decisions, speeds up business processes and leads to a competitive advantage.

If the government is recognising the importance of data valuation, why aren’t you?

If we delve into one of the statistics, we can check if it holds water:

The most commonly quoted statistic is the seventh in DCMS’s list, that “90% of the world’s data was created in the last 2 years”. I first heard this statement around 2013 – about six years ago. It seems to have been repeated ad nauseam at every data conference since!

Yet, let’s just think about it logically. If this has remained true since 2013, 90% of the world’s data was created between 2017-2019, we must have therefore only had 10% of today’s data at the end of 2016 and, by implication, 1% of the world’s data at the end of 2014 and 0.1% at the end of 2012.

Do the statistics bear this out? Has there really been a 1,000x increase in the world’s data since the end of 2012? Clearly it is tough to get a single data set that answers this question, but there are some useful proxies.

Let’s start with consumer data. Facebook has 2.38 billion monthly active users as of 31stMarch 2019[2]. Back in September 2012 they had 1.01 billion users[3]. Impressive numbers, but a mere doubling rather than a 1,000-fold increase!

Twitter reports 330 million active users (at January 2019) up from 185 million in December 2012[4]. Instagram reports a growth of 90 million users in Jan 2013 to 1 billion in June 2018 – a growth of slightly over 10 times[5]! Yet still well short of the 1,000 times increase.

How about the realm of sensors, data and networks – the world of the industrial internet. Back in 2015 there were 15.41 billion IoT (internet of things) connected devices. By 2019 this number had increased to 26.66 billion. By 2025 it is predicted to grow to 75.4 billion[6]. Impressive increases, but still nowhere near the 1,000 times increase!

Why does this matter? Well, as the DCMS recognise, we need to base policy on facts and evidence. Clearly, there’s an increase in the amount of data that exists in the world today, growing rapidly holding the potential to create massive amounts of value.

The government understand that to appropriately manage their data, its value must be recognised. Anmut is the world leader in data valuation, honing decades of experience and advanced IP into a world-class service that enables organisations to make informed investment decisions.

Although data valuation has been spoken about for several years, Anmut is the only organisation that has developed a rigorous methodology for valuing your data assets, and unlocking the potential that your data holds.

If you want to know more about the radical implications that data valuation can have on your business, or have any questions about this work please leave a comment below, reach out to me on LinkedIn, or email info@anmut.co.uk

[1] https://bit.ly/2KKwWLn

[2] https://bit.ly/2daz7Yr

[3] https://bit.ly/2daz7Yr

[4] https://bit.ly/2dt7OI9

[5] https://bit.ly/2ea0AHs

[6] https://bit.ly/2dRtPP0

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