Making data work for you

When I was a tech entrepreneur striving to build successful businesses, I would rely on data to tell me how products were being used and how they could better meet people’s needs. The insights I gleaned were invaluable in refining and improving features, which ultimately helped my business grow.

Fast forward to now, and around me at Google every day I see data being used to help solve problems, do things better, or invent completely new things. We call this ‘data-driven innovation’.

In our lives as consumers, we make use of data-driven innovation every day. When we save ourselves hassle by using an app to see if our bus is running on time, or use Xero personal accounting to figure out where all our money went, we’re getting insights that would have been near-impossible to compute if we were left to our own devices. By gathering information from multiple sources (like buses) and using computing power to analyze them in real-time, we can unlock huge benefits.

We asked PwC to look at the role data plays in making Australia’s economy and society more productive and more efficient. The resulting report, “Deciding with data: how data-driven innovation is fuelling growth”, found that:

  • In 2013, data-driven innovation added $67 billion in new value to the Australian economy, or 4.4 percent of GDP - making it as big as the retail sector. 
  • Australia has substantial room to improve, and left an estimated $48 billion on the table in potential value from data-driven innovation 
  • Seizing this opportunity will require concerted action, especially by government which accounts for one-third of Australia’s economy 

The report also identifies that the health industry offers the biggest opportunity for Australia to boost data-driven innovation. The sector is not only growing in size and globally competitive, but Australia has the assets, such as good technology and talent, to win.

The MindSpot Clinic is a shining example of this. It’s a free online mental health clinic that has proven clinical success in using data to assess and treat patients. Three million Australians suffer from mental health problems each year, yet only one in five seek help. A third of MindSpot’s patients have never sought help before, and MindSpot’s smart use of data is improving the productivity of their therapists, and their ability to deliver concrete outcomes for patients. For example, MindSpot uses a detailed questionnaire with new patients which helps to more accurately assess their situation. Then over the course of treatment, MindSpot gathers data about how patients are feeling, which they use to provide appropriate care as and when it’s needed, rather than on a set schedule.

Working smarter with data to boost productivity and efficiency is a huge opportunity for Australia. This opportunity will require us to achieve a balance between using data for the benefit of society while ensuring that it is managed carefully and respectfully. If we can encourage all Australians to think about how data can help at their home, work, and in society, we will all be better off. That’s something we can count on.

Posted by Alan Noble, Engineering Director, Google Australia