Ideas About Big Data | PEAK Insight Journal
Issue 2

Ideas About Big Data

What’s the big deal about big data?

In this second edition of GMNsight: Advancing Grantmaking, we explore one of the hottest new concepts and what it might mean for the philanthropic sector. We have filled this journal with as many questions as answers, with the goal of beginning conversations about big data that share the essential perspective of grantmakers. We also have added links to more articles that offer additional insight and knowledge.

What do we mean by “big data”? “Big data” refers to datasets whose size is beyond the ability of typical database software tools to capture, store, manage, and analyze. This definition is intentionally subjective and incorporates a moving definition of how big a dataset needs to be in order to be considered big data–i.e., we don’t define big data in terms of being larger than a certain number of terabytes (thousands of gigabytes). We assume that, as technology advances over time, the size of datasets that qualify as big data will also increase. Also note that the definition can vary by sector, depending on what kinds of software tools are commonly available and what sizes of datasets are common in a particular industry. With those caveats, big data in many sectors today will range from a few dozen terabytes to multiple petabytes (thousands of terabytes)

The Origins of ‘Big Data’: An Etymological Detective Story (The New York Times, Feb. 1, 2013) »

 

Data for Good

Data for Good

What Can Data Do for Philanthropy? So, on top of everything else, foundations are supposed to compile and maintain data on their activities? And share it with other foundations? And perhaps even make it public? And do all of this willingly, because it will make philanthropy more effective? It is up to foundations to decide whether or not to do this, but it is becoming clearer every day that the answer is being thrust upon them, whether foundations are ready or not. It is impossible to escape the notion that we have entered the world of “Big Data.” The financial
Big Data Barges In

Big Data Barges In

More than Mere Numbers From Malte Spitz’s musings that cell phone records could have prevented the fall of the Berlin Wall to the White House’s $200 million commitment to “greatly improve the tools and techniques needed to access, organize, and glean discoveries from huge volumes of digital data,” big data is everywhere, and the philanthropic sector is no exception. Grantmaking increasingly requires deftly balancing processes and outcomes, transparency and privacy, capacity building and program investment—all elements of decision-making that must incorporate the promised panacea: data. More efficient and effective grantmaking will likely be the result of an increased understanding and use
Big Data in Small Pieces

Big Data in Small Pieces

Big Data is confusing (both the concept and the data itself). As more grantmakers begin to explore how their data can work in a larger context, and how that context relates to the mission and vision that are at the center of all their activities, we need more and better explanations, examples, and ideas about what big data is and how to use it (and whether to capitalize it). GMN compiled these resources to help raise awareness, expand understanding, and engage conversations. The Big Data Boom Is the Innovation Story of Our Time (The Atlantic, Nov. 21, 2011) While passive data
New Ethics for a New World

New Ethics for a New World

Since the first of our ancestors chipped stone into weapon, technology has divided us. Seldom more than today, however: a connected, always-on society promises health, wisdom, and efficiency even as it threatens an end to privacy and the rise of prejudice masked as science. On its surface, a data-driven society is more transparent, and makes better uses of its resources. By connecting human knowledge, and mining it for insights, we can pinpoint problems before they become disasters, warding off disease and shining the harsh light of data on injustice and corruption. Data is making cities smarter, watering the grass roots,
Dashboards: Driving Strategy With Data

Dashboards: Driving Strategy With Data

The word dashboard evokes images of cruising down the open road at 70-miles-per-hour or being stuck in traffic, praying that the gas light does not flip on. In both cases, the car’s dashboard is compiling and signaling information to the driver in a way that is easy to access, interpret, and then act upon, like second nature. So it’s easy to see why foundations, and specifically grants managers, would want to use the dashboard concept to help process the vast amounts of data we oversee, compiling diverse data points in a single location, communicating key facts, and sending signals to