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From Gut Instincts to Data-Driven Decision Making

Khuram Rahat is well known in Pakistan for his in-depth knowledge of cutting edge business intelligence solutions, the current regional Managing Director for Teradata – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, moreover, a consultant, lecturer and a founding member of Project Management Institute’s Islamabad Chapter, he holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration. He has extensive experience spanning 26 years in senior management, sales and project management and technology at the country and regional levels with a wide exposure to government, financial and telecommunication sectors. He spoke with Jawad Ali, MIT Technology Review Pakistan’s chief correspondent and research editor on the world of big data, its deep impact on governance, the corporate sector and Politics. Can gut instinct beat analytical thinking?

In Brief

  • Big data is revolutionizing almost every sector, particularly, telecom and banking sectors in Pakistan. Can our political parties become consumers of data services?
  • The government and public sector organizations are today using IT, data warehousing and mining solutions, more than in the past, for better governance and reforms. But still there is a long way to go.
  • In order to achieve the most and the best, the overall culture needs to be changed. The individuals need to understand and appreciate the value of decisions based on data.

What type of data services are hired by the corporate sector in Pakistan?
There is a growing awareness and understanding of the significance of data and analytics in the corporate sector of Pakistan. The corporate sector is exploiting data – both traditional and nontraditional in nature – to extract valuable insights. There is also a growing emphasis on the use of business analytics and data mining to discover unknown patterns and behaviors.

The corporate sector is also seeing a culture of outsourcing of services in addition to the traditional demand of engaging organizations for implementation of services. However, the usage of data services varies across different sectors with the banking and telecommunication sectors leading from the front.

Is the use of data services (data science: mining and analytics) growing in Pakistan the same way as it has been adopted in the developed world?
The data, the companies have today, is not just staggeringly high in volume but also diverse in its nature. The demand for data analytics is also rising rapidly. The goal is simply to get something beneficial from the data as the process gives significant insights which ultimately help to make informed business decisions.

The usage of data services in Pakistan varies from sector to sector. Currently, the telecom and banking sectors are the leading consumers of data services in the country. At the same time the realization and awareness of the significance of latent power in data is growing among other sectors and has actually increased in recent times. These sectors possess a huge potential for the use of data services for their growth.

Read more: Social Media and Big Data in Politics

How much government and public sector institutions are effectively using big data for the progress and business development (to improve the efficiency and service delivery)?
In Pakistan, NADRA (The National Database and Registration Authority, Pakistan) and PITB (Punjab Information Technology Board) are great examples of the use of information technology (IT) and data mining by the government to facilitate the citizens as well as use analytics to support security agencies and to improve governance.

There is a growing emphasis in the government on use of technology. The government and public sector organizations are using IT, data warehousing and mining solutions in different facets of governance including healthcare planning and service delivery, education planning and law and order, to name a few. The government aims to utilize the data warehouse for intelligently bringing reforms and serving citizens better, based on timely and accurate and reliable information. Though, a good start, there is a long way to go in this regard.

Is the government and public sector enterprise using the data as used by the corporate sector? What are the limitations of the government and public sector enterprises?
Like I said earlier, there is a growing usage of information technology by government departments. It has been a slow journey but it is in the right direction. Having said that, there are a number of very good examples of how information and communication technology has been utilized in recent times across different government functions. One great example is that of Government of Punjab’s initiative to fight dengue epidemic, where mobile phone technology and analytics were put to effective use. Other initiatives taken by provincial governments include; Land record computerization, real time monitoring vis-à-vis teachers’ attendance, cleanliness and students presence in public schools and automation of police stations etc.

We have not outpaced developed or some developing countries but surely we are on a smooth journey towards e-governance. There is a lot of resistance—visible and invisible. At the same time, there is a need to make people acclimatized with the change from paper to email. They need to understand and appreciate the value of decisions based on data and facts rather than just on their ‘gut feelings.’

Read more: Unlocking Big Data for Electioneering

If there has been any data analytics done for politics – are Pakistanis educated and mature enough to understand the technologies and vote for those parties and politicians who commit and work to resolve major issues –i.e., health, education, and civic facilities- or do they still follow their elders’ voting patterns of clans, groups and caste based on your data mining analytics?
I don’t believe there has been any such analysis undertaken so far. However, I do believe that we are relatively a young nation and such level of maturity will evolve over time. We have already seen such instances of voter maturity in some constituencies in the elections in the recent past.

What type of data services are being provided by Teradata in Pakistan?
Teradata is one of the world’s leading IT companies and is a world leader in Enterprise Data Warehousing, Big Data Analytics and Integrated Marketing Management solutions. It was established specifically for the purpose of enabling companies to organize large amounts of data from various sources and gain insights for making strategic and operational decisions.

In this regard, Teradata, besides providing hardware and software, also provides a complete array of services including; ETL development, BI Analytics development, Project Management, Managed Services and Cloud based solutions.

Teradata is already helping its customers make sense of the largest and most complex data sets both, structured and non-structured like; sensor data, web logs, network logs and data, tweets and emails etc. Teradata offers a potent combination of sophisticated analytics, best of breed technology and thousands of consulting professionals who have proved themselves by solving some of industry’s biggest challenges.

There are number of opportunities for big data in the country across different sectors and industries. Government, telecom, finance and manufacturing sectors are key areas. Other directions include retention analysis, fraud and risk analysis, social network analysis and sentiment analysis etc.

Does Teradata Pakistan provide services to political parties of the country? If yes, then what type of services? If no, what are the limitations – what is potential of data usage in political campaigns and capacity of political parties to handle it?
No! Teradata Pakistan does not provide (analytics) services to political parties. However, we believe analytics around demographics and analysis of past voting patterns can greatly benefit political parties in better targeting the electorate. In the last election, we witnessed greater use of social media and mobile technology to reach out to the voters to influence them to vote and vote for particular parties. Imagine the effectiveness of campaigns if such outreach initiatives were based on scientific analysis of data. The effectiveness of such campaigns can be increased manifold and dramatically influence the winning chances of candidates.

Read more: Harnessing the Power of Data

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