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What will be the economic impact of the big data movement?

The business world is only now beginning to explore the full extent of what it can accomplish with big data. Corporate chief information officers have begun investing significant amounts of time and money into collecting information about their customers, and they can use that knowledge to improve sales numbers, customer service initiatives and long-term customer loyalty programs.

It remains to be seen, though, what effect those data-driven programs will have on companies' bottom lines, and more importantly, on the economy overall. The business world is undergoing a seismic shift, and we're still waiting to see the full impact. Will companies reap tremendous profits, thanks to the improvements brought about by data-based innovations? Or will the commitment to data be so expensive that businesses fail to break even?

This question, one way or the other, will be a major determining factor in the world economy over the course of the next decade. Either we'll see significant economic growth on a global scale, or the world's failure to extract maximum benefits from data will lead to fiscal sluggishness. In a way, data is the new oil - a commodity so scarce and so essential that the strength of the world's economy depends on it. That's the case made by Derrick Harris, a senior big data writer at GigaOM, who sees the world's future hinging on the data movement.

After the boom
Harris argues that the "oil boom" has already occurred, and the big data movement is now underway.

"There's no denying that all successful web companies and most successful companies of all types rely pretty heavily on data to make better decisions around marketing, operations or whatever," he wrote. "Ask Google, Amazon, Walmart, Disney, GE, Target - and the list could go on for days - how important data is to them. The oil boom already happened, and it was great. Now, equal or not, it's data that's taking industry and commerce to the next level."

Just like with oil, data has a variety of applications. Oil can be used to power our planes, trains and automobiles - data can be used to improve marketing, sales, customer services, human resources and many other areas of business.

Also similar to oil, data must be as pure as possible. Companies care about oil quality because our machinery depends on it - likewise, they're passionate about data quality because it will bring greater intelligence to the entire business world.