Data is the New Oil

Anika Chhabra
Jan 22 · 4 min read

In the early 19th century, oil changed the face of the industry in the whole world. This happened due to the invention of oil-powered engines. They were cheap, easy to operate and ready to work anytime and anywhere, unlike the horse-driven carriages. All this took place by the use of a liquid gold called ‘oil’. Oil lead to tasks being carried out more efficiently. It was readily available, reduced the efforts, increased the output, saved time and money and ultimately lead to better customer satisfaction.

2 centuries later came another such gold but not in the form of liquid but information. It was data. Data has transformed the face of our current industries. Data is what we gift to our world. It can also be your form of a gift. For example, each DNA carries digital information of about 1.5GB. 1.5 Gbytes x 100 trillion cells = 150 trillion Gbytes or 150×1⁰¹² x 1⁰⁹ bytes = 150 Zettabytes (1⁰²¹)!!!.This is equivalent to 40 billion iPads of 32GB storage. So the real question is, “Is data the new oil?”

Around a decade ago, we first heard the expression ‘Data is the new oil’. It was coined by Clive Humby, the man that built Clubcard, the world’s first supermarket loyalty scheme. He was using the metaphor to explain how data is a resource that is useless if left ‘unrefined’: only once it’s mined and analysed, does it create (potentially extraordinary) value. So, let’s see how this data became of this extraordinary value.

Data: The Biggest Asset of a Businessman

Many businesses collect data for multifold purposes.This helps them in better understanding of day-to-day operations, making more informed business decisions and learning about their customers. A primary category on its own is customer data. Companies routinely collect, store, and analyse vast volumes of quantitative and qualitative data on their customer base every day, from consumer behaviour to predictive analytics. Some businesses have developed a whole business model around customer data, whether it’s businesses that sell personal information to a third party or build targeted advertising. But how do these companies manage to collect all this data?

The most obvious places are from consumer activity on their websites and social media pages, but there are some more interesting methods at work as well. In order to see how clients have dealt with their sales and support teams in the past, businesses often dig deep into their customer service history. Here, they incorporate direct information on what worked and what didn’t, on a grand scale, what a consumer liked and despised. Another way is location-based ads, which use tracking technologies such as the IP address of an internet-connected computer (and the other devices with which it interacts, your laptop can communicate with your mobile device and vice versa) to construct a customised data profile. This data is then used to target the devices of users with hyper-personalised, relevant advertising.Then the information is extracted from data just as energy is extracted from oil.

The five most valuable companies in the world today — Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Google’s parent company Alphabet — have commodified data and taken over their respective sectors, by basically selling — access. Amazon recommendation engine is responsible for 35% of its revenue. The huge amount of data controlled by these mega companies are bigger than most companies.

Data Privacy

In the environmental area, increased liability for oil transporters only get you so far. The real solution is the development of clean energy technologies — solar, wind, hydro and geothermal power. The same should be true for big data. The answer is not simply to punish data spills. It is to prevent them through new, “clean data” technologies and privacy-protected business models. These technologies of the future would form the basis, not only for better data security and privacy protection, but for the emergence of a “clean data” sector that makes us more competitive. A leak that affected a few million people’s data would have been big news not long ago. Now, breaches are very common, affecting hundreds of millions or even billions of people. In the top two of the 15 largest breaches of this century alone, some 3.5 billion individuals had their personal data stolen. On this list, the smallest occurrence included data from a mere 134 million individuals.

Data has now become a nation’s biggest commodity since it is now controlling the government itself. Therefore, the government needs to build a data driven society in delivering better services to citizens and better statistics so that people, organisations and they can make better decisions. A data-driven economy will better enable government tackle fraud and debt, centralise civil registration information, provide support to troubled families and alleviate poverty.

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Anika Chhabra

Written by

MSc. Bio Fresher at BITS Pilani

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +786K followers.

Anika Chhabra

Written by

MSc. Bio Fresher at BITS Pilani

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +786K followers.

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