Globalisation on Steroid – called Big Data

According to HBR, back in 2016, 12% of the global goods trade included cross-border e-commerce, and half of the world’s services trade was being conducted digitally. One could ask, has globalisation gone digital?

But before we answer this question, we should take a step back and first reflect on what actually is Globalisation? You might have come across another brilliant definition, one of the best one I have found is from BBC’s education site for the young students stating, “Globalisation is the process by which the world is becoming increasingly interconnected as a result of massively increased trade and cultural exchange.” I don’t know about you but if you ask me, who or what is interconnecting the world so rapidly? My immediate personal response will be, of course, Data/Big Data. However, the issue is more complicated than it appears. There were days when this job was conducted by ships, then came the planes and now ICT (Information and Communication Technologies), enabling data and services to be transferred from a simple device, connected to the internet. What ships and planes were able to do in days or months, ICT is making it possible in seconds. It is also important to remember here that Globalisation is not a new 21st-century phenomenon. Globalisation had been happening for centuries, albeit the term started to appear in articles and literature during the 1930s. What we are seeing today could be argued as globalisation on steroid, and that steroid is Big Data.

What I found interesting, while the ICT is getting the credit for rapid globalization, interconnectivity of the world and speeding up of the processes and systems involved in global trade and travel, it is also becoming fashionable to blame the ICT, especially the automation aspect, for some people being ‘left behind’ or for undermining of democracy. While there is a polarized view of automation in our society, there is hardly any doubt about its strong relationship with Big Data. In this blog post, I would restrict myself to merely highlighting the issue, rather than discussing both anti and pro automation/Big Data views in the context of globalisation and its impact on our daily lives.

I wonder how many times you have heard the saying, globalisation is here to stay…’ or something similar. Well, looking at the past charts and future trends, it is looking increasingly convincing that globalisation is here for a long run. No doubt, there have been various tides of nationalism and protectionism, tried to restrict globalisation in different forms. The fact is, it always bounced back, at least so far. There are now constructive debates about whether nationalism and globalisation can even co-exist. If you critically explore the rise of nationalism, e.g. as I touched upon briefly in my previous blog post, you will notice that the Big Data scientists were active in some major movements promoting this movement. This shows that Big Data is a powerful tool that can be utilized by both pro nationalists and pro globalists in pushing their agenda and cause. It really depends on who is using it and with what motive. This is where the regulatory aspect becomes absolutely crucial, by ensuring that any use of Big Data is restricted from compromising our civil liberties, human rights and democratic values.

Feel free to check out the other articles and blog posts written by my colleagues, where there is a continuing theme of discussing Big Data and its relevance to the development issues around the world. You might find interesting that the topic covered in these articles are not only concerned with specific geographical locations but also have global implications, mainly because we live in a world where it is not easy to discuss Big Data, digital strategy and ICT without giving it a global context, regardless of the sector.