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Why do we care about data?

Data is all around us, but why is it so important? In this article, Dr Jeremy Singer motivates the discipline of data science.
Satellite image of the earth at night
© University of Glasgow
Data is the new gold is a common saying. People recognise data as a resource that can be exploited. There is value in data. For instance, the Data Lab estimates that data science is worth £17 billion to the Scottish economy. A recent UK government estimate has data worth £60 billion to the UK economy every year. So, data does have massive economic significance.

However, in this course we want to focus on the use of data as everyday citizens. Each person is generating megabytes of data per second. This might come from:

  • personal fitness trackers
  • body-camera feeds
  • social media posts
  • financial transactions
  • web browsing history
  • … the list goes on.

As citizens, we want to leverage data to influence society. We want to advocate for change, based on data-rich evidence. This change could take place at all levels, from individual behaviour to national policy decisions.

We need to be able to access data, to explore it, and to draw conclusions from it. We will discover various tools and techniques in this course to help us. We will explore the Python scripting language and the Pandas data science library. Many other systems are available. Don’t be put off if you are not a ‘coder’ – we are encouraging people to start small and go slowly.

For a first discussion point, consider what data you have generated today. What does it say about you? Where is the data stored? How might it be used? Please post your comments and tell us.

© University of Glasgow
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