Data Palaver in Nigeria

Working as an Analyst has its perks. You get first-hand view on all sorts of customer related data ranging from personal to transactional to even financial data. Yes, indeed one gets to view all manners of data and indirectly gets interesting views of humans, especially as economic beings who are not always very rational. Such data speak volumes!

Most companies in Nigeria are awaking to the importance of data and how critical it is to the success and failure of business. Simply put, data shapes strategy for most companies. The quality of the data you keep is critical to business survival.

Furthermore, data follows “the garbage in, garbage out” paradigm in the sense that the usefulness of the data churned out is determined by the quality of the data entered. There is also the issue of what type of data your business should monitor, how to interpret the data, how frequently to collect and collate etc. These aspects of data are industry specific (sometimes they can be business specific) but these facets can all combine nicely together to produce a beautiful strategy symphony.

For the right data, companies will pay top dollar or Naira in the case of Nigeria and it actually makes sense to do so. Some customer data like email addresses, home addresses, name, gender and other bio data can be collected by companies on their own, but it is the juicy data that is used to deduce consumer behaviour that companies should be willing to pay for and you can’t fault them for that.

In the course of swimming with the limited data available in Nigeria, you get to know about and appreciate the importance of clean data and how a lack of it is going to impact negatively on the usefulness of your data set. (Especially if you have paid for it)

But what is clean data? It has nothing to do with formatting; clean data is a data set that is accurate across all the attributes of the unique identifier (remember where you heard It first).

Let’s take the data page on your international passport for example, your passport number is your unique identifier (because that number uniquely identifies you, i.e. no one else should have the same passport number as you), the other fields like Name, DOB, Place of birth etc. are your attributes. Data is clean if all those attribution information are accurate, that means no typos and no misinformation, (your first name is your first name, your surname is your surname etc.).  Only when these conditions are met can one say that the information on the data page of their international passport is clean.

Within the confines of the international passport example, one may think that the emphasis on this ‘Clean data’ is an exaggeration.  I mean, so what if someone put your first name where you last name is meant to be, who cares if they put my hometown as my place of birth, I know my names, I know where I was born and I have other means to prove it.  This is an affordable view to have within the margins of the passport story, but in the business world, where data is “King”, you have to pay more attention to how clean your data is and to this end you have to ensure that the data collection process enforces standards that reflect the necessity of clean data. Just imagine the implication of a misspelled email address or an incomplete phone number across thousands of unique identifiers? Or imagine a cohort analysis with inaccurate category grouping, spend grouping etc!  The implication for such on a large scale can be disastrous for all businesses.

In Nigeria, it should be pretty obvious which industry has the cleanest data set. What might be surprising is discovering which industry has the messiest data.  Think about that for a minute. Remember my definition of what clean data is as you ponder

The E-commerce industry has cleanest data set in Nigeria. This should not come as a surprise, if you think about it, e commerce involves buying and selling between people that have possibly never seen each other and will possibly have no form of physical contact during the transactions until ‘perhaps’ the delivery stage (I say perhaps because most delivery is outsourced). The idea of doing business with someone you have never seen raises a lot of trust based issues and that trust bridge is built over the river called data. The more you know about someone, the more likely you are to trust or not trust them; this is why accurate information collection is enforced on most E commerce platforms in Nigeria. These E-commerce stores have a bunch of ways of ensuring that information provided is as accurate as possible, email and SMS verification processes are two of the commonly used methods

It is impossible to talk about unclean data in Nigeria without mentioning the public sector and the Government institutions but that’s another story for another day (hash tag after election)!

Surprisingly, financial institutions have the most unclean data (remember, clean data is a data set that is accurate across all the attributes of the unique identifier). Unfortunately most financial institutions do not enforce the accuracy of their data set across each unique identifier as much as other industries. Do you know you can open a bank account with a wrong email address and a wrong phone number in Nigeria?  The main focus for financial institutions is on bio data and account balance. This is in line with the old school book keeping methods, but unfortunately this will not work in this new network based economy, especially in Nigeria where bio data can be bought or falsified with minimal restraint.  That being said, credit has to be given to most banks who try and tie must have banking products and services to customers with verified and authentic data. Other financial institutions that specialise in loan and credit facilities do not pay the necessary amount of attention to how clean the data they collect is.

Financial data is much cherished and can be used by businesses in every industry to devise bespoke credit facilities for customers.

Financial institutions can leverage strategically on the value of their data by ensuring that they collect ‘clean data’ that is useful for themselves and their potential business partners, who will pay top Naira for the rich financial data set. They can do this by adopting and tailoring similar approaches that have worked for the e-commerce industry with regards to collecting clean and authentic data.

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