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Singapore libraries use Big Data Analytics for its users and employees

The Singapore National Library Board (NLB) – with 25 public libraries, over 1.5 million titles and more than 30 million loans per year – offers an excellent opportunity to build a business case for Big Data Analytics (BDA). And they did just that.


Relying on vendors and building up its internal capability in unison, the NLB is currently executing some ROI-generating projects that ooze Big Data appeal:

  • Superior search results – data mining past loan record patterns and performing text analytics on them as well as books’ bibliographies to generate enhanced search results and recommendations
  • Demand Analysis – forecasting the demand for new and existing titles
  • Planning a library’s collection – optimization technology used to plan each library’s category mix, maximizing the number of loans given space and budget constraints

All these Big Data Analytics are done using a Hadoop cluster with 13 virtual servers on 3 virtual machine hosts. Elegant!

Business Information ASEAN (Sept 2014) has the full article here.

Open Data and Power Distance: A Strong Correlation

In his most notable work – Cultural Dimensions Theory – Geert Hofstede said that Power Distance measures “the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally”.

In other words, countries with a low Power Distance Index (PDI) have confidence in equality for every citizen. A country with an elevated PDI has the people accepting (and expecting) that inequality exists between the leaders and themselves.

Figure 1 shows the PDI for the countries Hofstede’s team surveyed.


Figure 1. Power Distance Index. Source:

By golly, Malaysia has been accorded the highest PDI. In fact, Asian countries exhibit high PDIs while their Western counterparts, including Australia and New Zealand, have low PDIs.

In a separate matter, The Open Knowledge Foundation published the Open Data Index (ODI) that tracks how committed governments are to opening up their data on 10 key datasets, including transport timetable, government budget and spending, election results and pollutant emissions.

Figure 2 shows the top 10 countries with the highest Open Data scores.

odi Figure 2. Open Data: Top 10 Countries. Source: Open Knowledge Foundation


So, where do all these talk on PDI and ODI lead to?

We wanted to find out how Power Distance affects how devoted governments are to Open Data by correlating these two sets of indices.

Normalizing both the scores for Open Data and Power Distance, we plotted them on a scatter chart. Then a simple linear regression (best fit) was applied on both series.

The result is shown in Figure 3.

pdi-vs-odi Figure 3: Power Distance vs Open Data

Voila. A correlation between Power Distance and Open Data. The higher a country’s Power Distance Index, the less Open Data you can expect from it. And vice versa.

Malaysia has the highest PDI and there is currently very limited government datasets available to the public. On the other hand, the UK government (PDI=35) has released an avalanche of datasets to the world.

There is little doubt that Open Data drives innovation. A 2013 Open Data study by McKinsey concluded that the 1 million+ datasets made open by governments worldwide can lead to:

  • $3 trillion potential annual revenue in seven domains (education, transportation, consumer products, electricity, oil and gas, healthcare and consumer finance)
  • Identification of 3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emission reductions from buildings
  • 35 hours that could be saved by commuters from schedule changes
  • 100,000+ medical, health and fitness apps for smartphones
  • 50%+ consumer share of potential value

Power Distance is deeply rooted in a society’s culture. To get from where Malaysia is to where we want the country to be by 2020 – to have a high degree of data and information openness – requires a seismic shift in how we view and accept inequalities in the country’s power distribution.



Open data: Unlocking innovation and performance with liquid information, McKinsey&Company, October 2013

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Big Data Analytics helps fight infant cancer

Download this short paper and read about how Big Data Analytics is used to fight neuroblastoma, the most common cancer in infancy:

  • HPC and cloud computing used by scientists and oncologists to identify targeted and personalized treatments
  • Involves studying tumor samples from patients, getting the genomic sequencing data from lab instruments, analyzing that data to make decisions about the best treatment for the patient.
  • Data generated by the instruments are huge: up to 3TB per instrument and about 200 TB per patient


Yahoo! Japan predicts Japan’s election outcome with single digit accuracy

Yahoo! Japan deploys Big Data Analytics (BDA) to create a better Japan by analyzing the online behavior of its massive user base. Through BDA, it is able to:

  • Capture users’ behavior in detail by analyzing access logs, search on images and videos
  • Optimize advertising via machine learning – their advertisements improve day after day
  • Successfully forecast Japan’s economic growth index before the government could publish the report
  • Predict the country’s election outcome, accurate to one digit

Vodafone Netherlands achieves customer intimacy through unified data

Watch the power of Big Data Analytics in enabling Vodafone to offer unified communications to its users.

  • Getting intimate with its customers means unifying data from multiple sources – billing, POS, channel data, customer plans, where customers purchased their phones and how customers are using their phone
  • Business and IT need to work together to create a data-driven company
  • Use predictive analytics to prevent customer churn

White Paper: BDA Malaysia Emerging Sector Profile 2014

A white paper on the state of Big Data Analytics (BDA) Malaysia was published by Big Data Malaysia in 2014 with the sole objective of raising the nation’s BDA profile. In this paper, a survey was undertaken to answer the following critical questions:

  • What are the opportunities and barriers to Big Data activity in Malaysia?
  • Who is merely “interested”, versus who is actually committed?
  • What is the current and future capacity for Big Data talent?
  • Where are the critical gaps in training and skills?
  • What are the soft inhibitors, including data access, regulation and perception?


Based on the responses from 108 individuals from 90 organizations, the white paper then presented seven broad recommendations:

  • Foster a data-centric organizational culture
  • Equip the organization to manage and make decisions based on real-time data in order to remain competitive
  • Cultivate multi-disciplinary data science teams
  • Combine data from internal sources within the organization with external sources to spur innovation
  • Create a “data dictionary” of data assets relevant to the organisation to minimise friction for data science projects
  • Large organizations, and especially government, should make concerted efforts to release data to the public in machine-consumable form to unlock value hidden within their data assets
  • The Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) should be frequently reviewed, and revised if necessary, to protect individuals while simultaneously encouraging data projects

The authors, Sandra Hanchard and Tirath Ramdas, also interviewed five leaders from a diverse industry landscape, obtaining their perspective on BDA in Malaysia. The five are:

  • Heislyc Loh, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, CoRate
  • Tom Hogg, Commercial Director, Effective Measure
  • Siim Saarlo, Chief Technology Officer, STATSIT
  • Robin Woo, Senior IT Manager, Western Digital Corporation
  • Ian Phoon, Data Scientist, a Malaysian bank

Overall, BDA Malaysia Emerging Sector Profile 2014 is an absolute must-read. The paper does a excellent job in removing any fever of uncertainty as to the current climate of BDA in Malaysia.

You can download the white paper from here or here.

DSA Guide Features Seven Malaysian Big Data Analytics Innovators

In March 2014, MDeC and DSA set out on an arduous two-month mission to work on a Big Data guide featuring companies in Malaysia that were involved in Big Data Analytics (BDA). We wanted to include suppliers and vendors, Big Data innovators that push BDA to the limits of current thinking, and beyond.


Multinationals were deliberately left out because we wished to highlight homegrown companies. So we dug deep into our list of BDA vendors that fit the bill. The result is a Big Data compendium that showcases these seven Malaysian companies:

  • Neuramatix
  • Predictry
  • Speedminer
  • Raydar Research
  • Web Bytes
  • Fusionex
  • Pulse Group

Download the Guide To Big Data.