Opinion and Editorial

Cluttered up data serves no good

Younus Al Nasser
Filed on September 25, 2020


Failing to adopt a strategy whereby data is reclassified and re-managed to begin immediate exploration can result in high costs

This time, I will not burden you with talking about the latest advancements in data exchange and accessibility. Instead, I will take you and data on a journey to our everyday household environment. I would like us to explore the existing similarities between institutional data and the realities of our daily life. So, let me ask you this: Are you planning to move into a new house? Or have you already done so? Surely, many of you may have answered with a 'yes' accompanied by memories of different situations while you were planning a move, some of which were inconvenient while others rather funny.

I already have in mind the memory of the beginning of my married life, more specifically the day when I moved my possessions from my father's house to my new home. I was, and still am, fond of holding on to possessions and things that remind me of certain stages of my life. On that day, I was surprised about how many boxes I needed in order to pack all my belongings. I had estimated that I would need five or six boxes, but I ended up needing dozens. I failed to use sight or experience to estimate the possessions that I had accumulated over the years, so I had to make decisions on what to keep and what to leave behind. Eventually, I successfully moved to my new home. But what does this story have to do with institutional data?

Data in institutions, whether government or private, is just like our possessions. Some of it has accumulated over the years as a result of an institution's conscious choices, while much of it is the natural result of the passing of time and the many transactions that take place. While it may be acceptable to some for things to pile up at home, many people nowadays prefer more space and freedom of movement. Similarly, piling up data in institutions is no longer acceptable because it is the thin line between being ready for the future and being stuck in the past. This is what distinguishes those who utilise their capacities and teams to take action and be ahead of their time from those who think it is still early to change and hang on to traditional methods of business.

Failing to adopt a strategy whereby data is reclassified and re-managed to begin immediate exploration can result in high costs that a few extra boxes - to refer back to the house moving story - cannot help cover. So, no matter what stage an institution is at and no matter what circumstances it is facing, the best solution lies in the immediate implementation of a data strategy and a clear approach to data classification, access, and exchange.

Here in Dubai, our city-wide Data Champions have exceeded the objectives we had set for opening and exchanging data at the city level. This was accomplished by collaborating with our partners in the government and private sectors, setting rules and implementing data policies that serve as strategic pillars applicable to all entities involved in the city's data ecosystem. This means that setting off on this data journey as quickly as possible is the only way to avoid a data shock.

Younus Al Nasser is the Assistant Director General of Smart Dubai and CEO of the Dubai Data Establishment

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