Technology / #ForbesTechnology

November 18, 2019,   1:37 PM

Uncovering Big Data’s Big Trends

Forbes Middle East


1st panel

Our first panel at our Big Data's Big Trends event.

Nearly 200 technology experts, business leaders, and innovators from across the region and beyond have gathered at a half-day event hosted by Forbes Middle East to explore how big data is disrupting business. Three panels delved into the value of big data, the opportunities arising from artificial intelligence and cloud computing, and the best practices when dealing with consumer data.

The first panel, moderated by Bart Pietruszka, CDO and Regional Head of Analytics at HSBC, discussed the true value of big data and how business models are changing to implement it. While talking about the way data is being used to understand consumers, as well as the importance of avoiding flooding them with information, it was agreed that collecting and using data is a journey and companies need to understand what they need from the insights before they start.

“The way you capture your data needs to be thought through from the beginning,” said Jennifer Fischer, CIO at TBWA/RAAD. However, Ghassan Al Jamil, Business Development Director at Oracle pointed out that the opportunities made possible with data may not be realized until you have it and can analyze it. “We are living in an exciting time, when we can take in data without knowing what it is and see that there are correlations,” he said.

As leaders in technology, the panelists spoke about the importance of a top-down approach. “From an implementation perspective, it’s that willingness for us as business leaders to lead our organizations to answer those harder questions that will be answered by data,” said Olivia Duane Adams, CCO at Alteryx. “We always say you can’t have AI without IA. If you don’t have your Information Agenda right you won’t be able to take advantage of AI,” agreed Cherif Morcos, VP of Digital Business Solutions at GBM.

During the second panel, moderated by Imad Atwi, Principal at Strategy&, panelists discussed how AI, ML and cloud computing are continuing to disrupt businesses. This session highlighted how big data and these new technologies are all part of the same ecosystem. Panelists talked about how AI is being adopted across public and private sectors.

“We see two trends in data in any company. They have operational data and experience data. The question is how to make sense of it,” said Gergi Abboud, Regional Senior VP, and GM at SAP. “On the experience side, it’s more about one-to-one conversations at scale. The products are no longer the product, we are able to sell an experience. It’s a continuous conversation with the consumer. AI helps you augment that and achieve it.”

However, it’s not all about experience. “When you look across use cases there are four pillars,” said Alaa Youssef, Managing Director at SAS. “One is experience. The other is related to improving products and services. Third is related to the organization. And the fourth is the mandates that come with security and compliance.” He pointed out that regional governments have been quick to adopt AI to improve lives for citizens. “In the UAE and Saudi in particular, big steps have been taken,” he added.

And why are businesses adopting these technologies? “In order to increase productivity,” said Fadi Amoudi, CEO of IQ Robotics. “Everyone will benefit. You’re talking about a 99% accuracy rate and a 70% saving in resources.”

With businesses and governments speedily adopting new technologies, especially AI, the panel agreed that we will eventually stop talking about it. “We will stop being excited about AI; it will be everywhere all the time. We will worry a lot more about data security,” said Caspar Herzberg, President for the Middle East and Africa at Schneider Electric. He also touched on the idea that humans and machines will one day combine to become a singularity. The published author and smart city expert said he expects to see that occurring within the next 10 years. 

This led into the final panel of the day, moderated by Hala Bou Alwan, Founder, and CEO of the Hala Bou Alwan Consultancy, which delved into the trending topic of data privacy and discussed the best practices when dealing with consumer data.

“Privacy is a fundamental human right,” said Ihsan Anabtawi, COO at Microsoft Gulf FZ LLC. “There is no trust without privacy.” He explained that looking at GDPR and CCPA, there are two overarching themes: control and transparency. Having been the first company to commit to applying GDPR globally, Anabtawi revealed that Microsoft is also already applying CCPA for all customers in the US, not just California. It may be that all companies will have to follow suit in the coming years. “Eventually we're going to see a unified global law about data protection,” said Tarek Nakkach, Regional Legal Counsel at HPE. “They say prevention is better than cure.”

In the meantime, all panelists agreed that education within businesses is key. “Humans are very trusting,” said Andrew Pearson, Founder and MD of Intelligencia. “Employees trust phishing emails coming in because they don’t understand the risks. You need to be very cautious with your data and your people.”

Mahmoud Al Tabarane, Head of Operations at Infowatch agreed, saying that the human factor is vital. “You cannot protect data without knowing what the data is. You need to understand what type of data you have and who has access to it,” he said. “The human factor is, we all are humans, we can make mistakes. You need to make your employees aware of how to handle data. You need to invest in the human factor more than you invest in a solution.”

The forum was held on Monday, November 18, 2019, at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel in Dubai. It was hosted in partnership with HumanSoft as a Platinum Partner, GBM as a Gold Partner and Schneider Electric as Innovation Partner.

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