Our world is ruled by data. All around us, people, institutions and businesses are busily funnelling information through an ever-increasing variety of technological media.
Each minute of the day we perform over 700,000 Google searches, publish over 695,000 Facebook posts, punch out over 98,000 tweets and write over 168 million emails - all contributing to an ever more complex, confusing and intricate web of data.
The mastery of Big Data is what has made Facebook a seamless global interface used by a billion people. It's what allows Twitter to carry the weight of millions of opinions. And it's what has made Amazon one of the most powerful retail operations on the planet.
It is clear that this wealth of information contains enormous commercial benefits, enabling the growth of today's commercial titans. But it's not just for big business.
A recent study by Intuit showed that Big Data's biggest beneficiary could in fact be small businesses - and consumers too.
It's a big focus for us. As a company that safeguards the financial data of around 60 million customers, Intuit is keenly aware of the huge potential benefit that customers themselves can draw from the power of their own data as well as the collective wisdom of millions of fellow customers.
Over the next few years I strongly believe that we will see the emergence of what might be termed a 'new data democracy'. Swathes of information will become increasingly accessible to individuals and small businesses - who in turn will be increasingly able to understand, process and refine it into real practical insight.
Equipped with a commercial understanding previously the preserve of major corporations, small businesses can drive efficiencies, improve their profitability, attract new customers and, ultimately, contribute to economic growth.
Take Startup Compass, a company which collects data from tens of thousands of new companies, providing the entrepreneurs who use it with an ever-growing body of best practice, performance indicators and benchmarks. There are already 17,000 businesses submitting information and using the service to inform decision-making and run their businesses.
But it's not just small businesses that stand to gain - the new data democracy spells good news for the consumer, too. All that tweeting, posting, searching and buying will soon pay dividends, as they are provided with a broad array of opportunities they previously lacked.
From what to purchase and where to purchase it from, to forging new relationships and building communities - Big Data will help individuals to chart a course through the increasingly confusing maze of modern life.
Data will soon become the defining raw material of the modern commercial age, taking pride of place alongside the traditional forces of land, labour and capital - and small businesses and consumers will be just as significant users as multi-national corporations.
When it comes to Big Data, let's not forget the little guy.
Mark Little is Vice President and U.K. Managing Director of Intuit.
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