The Power of a Data Strategy

Data is the new oil
In today’s digital world, most companies are flooded with data, both structured and unstructured. Indeed, data itself has become a commodity, and the mere possession of abundant amounts of data is not enough. Businesses today experience no shortage of data in terms of quantity; the challenge is tapping into the enormous potential of that collected data and extracting value from it as a resource. Data may be the new oil, but it is only valuable if you have a reliable infrastructure.

Data as a foundation for a Digital Economy
The importance of data as a foundation for a digital economy cannot be over emphasized. Simply without data there can be no digital strategy. Therefore, some level of governmental control needs to be exercised around data, how it is generated, stored, updated, secured and the utilized. Like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of Europe and Ghana’s Data Protection Act (GDPA).

The expansion of the digital economy creates many new economic opportunities. Data can be used for development purposes and for solving societal problems, including those related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Data has become a new economic resource for creating and capturing value. Data is key to all fast-emerging digital technologies, such as data analytics, AI and blockchain.

Data Storage
Data storage is one of the basic capabilities in a company’s technology portfolio – yet it is a complex discipline. Most IT companies have mature methods for identifying and managing the storage needs of individual application systems; each system receives sufficient storage to support its own processing and storage requirements. It is important that companies are enabled to effectively manage the world's exponential data growth with innovative products and solutions, recognizing the social responsibility to preserve digital content for future generations.

Data Strategy
A data strategy defines how a company will manage and use its data to generate value. Historically, IT companies have defined data strategy with a focus on storage. A data strategy helps you to make informed decisions based on your data.

A data strategy must address data storage. There are five core components of a data strategy that work together as building blocks to comprehensively support data management across an organization: identify, store, provision, process and govern.

Data residency and Sovereignty
Data residency refers to the physical or geographic location of an organization's data or information. Data sovereignty differs from data residency in that not only is the data stored in a designated location but is also subject to the laws of the country in which it is physically stored. Ensuring data sits within a geographical location for whatever reason - whether avoiding or taking advantage of laws, regulations, and tax regimes, or even for pure preference and comfort - is a matter of data residency. But the principle that the data is subject to the legal protections and punishments of that country is a matter of data sovereignty. This has been a difficult area to navigate for companies in respect of statutory compliance.

ICT Policy Framework
An ICT policy framework is a set of principles and goals intended to govern the development, implementation, adoption, monitoring, evaluation, and application of ICTs in companies, institutions, societies, or nations. Ghana’s ICT Policy Framework should provide the structure for governance required for a successful digital strategy.

Cloud solutions and applications in the way they are marketed and deployed in a country will be affected by the ICT policy framework in place in a country. It will be incredibly challenging to achieve the full benefit of digitization without a clear country-wide enterprise framework.

Implications for Companies
For companies across industries, benefitting from archiving solutions and direct, local access to their data and the data of their clients should not be overlooked.

These key aspects of data storage, access and manipulation must be accompanied with a guarantee that the data is governed by ICT Policy frameworks and Digital Strategy methods that ensure operational excellence for these companies.

Clients equally need an assurance in the wake of Africa’s emerging digital economy, that sensitive data being collected concerning them is handled, stored and accessed locally without a concern of where in the world their data may be stored, in understanding the risks involved with data storage and manipulation.

Implications for Government
The most significant challenges are with integration and interoperability of data across different departments and affiliated companies. For Government to benefit from citizen data critical aspects of storage will have to be addressed and residency and sovereignty issues cannot be ignored.

The location of the storage of data is as important as the management of the same data. An entire architecture is required to reap the full benefits of the stored data for decision making.

Conclusion
The right data storage will lead to the right digital strategy. The storage of the data requires reliable cyber – resilient infrastructure delivering security into all parts of storage life cycle. CEOs must be as strategic about acquiring, growing, refining, safeguarding, and deploying their data as they are with their human, financial and intellectual capital. The architecture of the data infrastructure should allow sharing and re-use. There are also compliance aspects of the storage of the data in respect of residency and sovereignty that cannot be ignored.

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