Data..!!!! The Oil of this Century!

The more you acquire, the stronger you become.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, oil has been known to be one of the world’s most valuable resources. From our cars to the electricity that brings light to our houses, it is involved in almost every aspect of our lives, but what if I told you there is another thing that is much more valuable than the black gold we have been worshipping over the past decade? Thought leaders and tech experts around the world have been trying to tell the world just by exclaiming that data is the new oil of the 21st century that runs everything in our environment.

DATA is everything and everywhere….

When someone says the word ‘data’ what is the first thing that strikes your mind?

Maybe you think of huge collection of paper that has binary codes, or maybe you just imagine a giant data centre hosting millions of servers.

Well, in both cases you are right, but there is more to data than just 1s and 0s. What most of us forget to realise is that everything around us involves data. From personal data such us your gender and birthdate to unstructured real time data such as how long you waited at that traffic light today on your way to home, there is data flowing through every moment of our life and it is being collected at a higher rate with each passing year.

Hence back in 20th century where oil was the world’s most important resource. It was the key functionality of everything from the government to local firms. Without it, progress would halt and economies would shrink. But now the 21st century. ROBOTS A new particular wonder that fascinates us. 

     The advent of robots makes the difference between these two centuries look like two different poles of a very wide spectrum. Robots are changing our lives to the whole new way that no one even imagined in last century and there are four things that the robots can do to change human lives in the future:

  1. Entertainment,
  2. Replacing workers in hazardous regions e.g. cleaning up the nuclear sites,
  3. Elderly care,
  4. Telepresence shopping, tourism and assistance.

And this is even more amazing because, present day technologies such as phone, internet brings the world to you. This here, is the power of the most useful resource of the 21st century — DATA. Like we are built by blood and muscle Machines and Robotics are built by data thus validating the rapidly growing universal truth in the emerging digitopia today that all roads lead to data. In the words of the great American engineer, statistician, Professor and the father of modern quality management, William Edwards Deming, “In God we trust; all others must bring data.”

“Around ten years ago, we first heard the expression ‘Data is the new oil’. It was coined by Clive Humby, the man that built Clubcard, the world’s first supermarket loyalty scheme. He was using the metaphor to explain how data is a resource that is useless if left ‘unrefined’: only once it’s mined and analysed, does it create potentially extraordinary value.

When Humby, introduced his proposal for a loyalty scheme to the directors of Tesco in 1994, its chairman famously replied: “What scares me about this is that you know more about my customers after three months than I know after 30 years.” The launch of Clubcard made Tesco the UK’s biggest supermarket chain by doubling its share within a year. It was also, arguably, the world’s first example of what’s now known as big data”.


  • Data acts as fuel which is the essential resource that powers the information economy in such the way that oil has fuelled the industrial economy.
  • Once upon a time, the wealthiest were those who had most natural resources, but now in this constantly changing economy, the wealthiest are those who have more data.
  • Information can be extracted from data just as energy can be extracted from oil.
  • Like the traditional transportation era is fully powered by oil, Data in the same way now acts as the new oil by powering the emerging transportation options like driverless cars and hyperloop (1200km/hr) which are based on advanced synthesis of data inform of algorithms and cognitive knowledge without any use of fossil fuels
  • Data flows like oil but we must “drill down” into data to extract value from it. Data promises a plethora of new uses — diagnosis of diseases, direction of traffic patterns, etc. — just as oil has produced useful plastics, petrochemicals, lubricants, gasoline, and home heating.
  • Oil is a scarce resource. Data isn’t just abundant; it is a cumulative resource.
  • If Oil is being used, then it cannot be used somewhere else because it’s a rival good. This results in a natural tension about who controls oil. If Data is being used, the same Data can be used elsewhere because it’s a non-rival good.
  • The life cycle of Oil is defined by process such as extraction, refining, distribution. The life cycle of Data is defined by relationships with other data, with context and with itself through the feedback loops.


Oil vs Data spillage –This is information ecosystem pollution –right data in the wrong place or wrong data in the right place.

Most of the times, comparison between oil and data take no notice of oil’s negative side. Tankers run around and spill their deadly black cargo. Data spills occur with the regularity of oil spills. The victim of identity theft — data’s militancy, trapped in unwanted credit card hacks, is just as trapped and unable to fly as the bird caught in the oil leakage, its wings coated with a glossy substance from which it struggles to free itself.

In this environmental area, increased responsibilities for oil transporters only get us so far. The real solution is the development of clean energy technologies like solar, wind, hydro and geothermal power. The same should be true for big data. The answer is not simply to punish data spills. It is to avert them through new, “clean data” technologies and privacy-protected business models. These technologies of the future would build the basis, not only for better data security and privacy, but for the exposure of a “clean data” sector that makes us more competitive.

And just as the use of oil and other fossil fuels have generated many environmental impacts that go beyond oil spills, building up a layer of carbon in the earth’s atmosphere that causes the greenhouse effect and global warming. In the same way, new technologies and business models are building a layer of personal data. But the increase in data is extraordinarily rapid than it has been with carbon. The amount of data in the world is doubling every two years. And the recent NSA(National Security Agency) scandal has revealed that this build up affects us.

This time, it’s not the greenhouse effect, but the glass house effect. It is as if we were increasingly living in a house with transparent walls which allows the hot glare of public scrutiny to reach in and search our most private selves. What else can we name it when companies saves our search queries and web activities and communications and share them with each other, or with the government? While climate acts on the physical world, the glass house effect acts on our lives which is way more dangerous. It focuses too much light on us without our permissions. If the evolution of big data continues on its current track, we will pass on to our children the ecosystem which is completely empty for the cultivation of the human personality. This is the threat that the tankers of big data pose as they transverse the globe.


The five most valuable companies in the world today  Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Google’s parent company Alphabet have shared data and taken over their respective sectors, by basically selling  access to it. Amazon recommendation engine is one of the major source of its revenue (35%). The huge amount of data controlled by these mega companies are bigger than most companies.

As we use their platforms in our day to day life, these corporate giants collect information about every aspect of our lives, our behaviour and our decision making with ease. All that data gives them tremendous power, and more profit.

Business tycoon must work with a ‘good data beats opinion’ philosophy. As businesses improves, more and more people will have opinions about which steps to be taken. But it helps to make use of this philosophy. Every metric of business can be tested, measured and improved. Hence, make sure you have real time access to the most valuable data in your business. Only having knowledge about your total revenue, profit or costs is not enough. Knowing which (Key Performance Indicator) KPI’s influence them and other business goals is much are important, because you learn how to develop your business. In fact, the true value lies in micro data, not in macro data.

“For India to succeed in this data driven revolution, we will have to migrate the control and ownership of Indian data back to India in other words, Indian wealth back to every Indian” – Mukesh Ambani, Chairman, Reliance Industries.

By Pooja Rao

12 thoughts on “Data..!!!! The Oil of this Century!”

  1. If you want to use the photo it would also be good to check with the artist beforehand in case it is subject to copyright. Best wishes. Aaren Reggis Sela

  2. Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back frequently!

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