Saturday, August 10, 2013

Smart Wuhan, Built on Big Data

The following is an abstract for a presentation given in the Committee of 100 Fourth Tien Changlin (田长霖) Symposium held in Wuhan, China, on June 20, 2013.

The presentation in Chinese is available at

The urban population in China doubled between 1990 and 2012.  It is estimated that an additional 400 million people will move from the countryside to the cities in the next decade.  China has announced plans to become a well-off society, while maintaining harmony, during this time period.  This is an enormous challenge to China and its cities like Wuhan.  

A well-off society necessarily includes a sound infrastructure and sustainable economic development with entrepreneurial spirits and drive for innovation.  It must constantly improve quality of life for its citizens with effective management of the environment and natural resources.  Most of all, it must change governance so that flexibility, high efficiency and responsiveness are the norms that its citizens would expect.  

If data were letters and single words, statistics would be grammar that binds them together in an international language that quantifies what a well-off society is, measures performance, and communicates results.  Modern technology can now collect and deliver electronic information in great variety with massive volume at rapid speed during the Big Data era.  Combined with open policy, talented people, and partnership between the academia, government, and private sector, Wuhan can get smart with Big Data, as it has started with projects like “China Technology and Science City” and “Citizen’s Home.”  Although there are many areas yet to expand and improve, a smart Wuhan will lead the nation up another level toward a well-off society.

Link to presentation in Chinese:

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Is Big Data Gold or Sand?

If we melt all the existing gold in the world and put them together, it would amount to about one third of the Washington Monument.  The value of gold is high because it is rare and has many uses.

Recent hype about Big Data compares it to gold as if you can collect them by simply dipping your hands in it.  If so, many people should already be rich.

It may be more appropriate to compare Big Data to sand, within which there may be gold - sometimes a little, sometimes none at all, and in rare situations, a lot.  Whatever the case, it will need investment and hard work to clean and mine them.  There is no real substitute with software or hardware.

There is value in a big pile of sand too.  According to an ancient saying, you can build pagodas with it; it is also the raw material for silicon chips today.

Of higher values is that Big Data is a yet-to-be totally explored branch of new knowledge.

Source of Chart: