Excellent example of data to outcome

Remember the 3 equations that summarise the logic for how data can create an outcome. I just came across an analysis done by Venkatesh Rao where he explores the 1854 London cholera outbreak. What is most interesting about this is how the raw data when put into the context in the final map shows how Dr Snow’s hypothesis is validated by plotting the data onto the map. The map in this case is providing the context and provides the insight that the Broad Street pump is most likely contaminated. His action to remove the pump validates the actions and cholera cases subside.

Excellent analysis and provides a valuable illustration of how data can create remarkable outcomes.


Is the removal of uncertainty at the heart of the digital economy?

Creating magical client experiences that become viral and scale exponentially summarises the approach of digital economy leaders. But what is a magical client experience? As I considered this question I started looking at examples of “magical experiences”.

The first example that came to mind was seeing the expected arrival of the next bus on a digital display at the bus stop. When I first saw this in London I remember discussing this with everyone I met that day. This is now readily available and anyone can build an app to provide this information using the TFL as an Open Data API. However, at the time this was a magical exerience.

The second example is using Flight Stats to check on the status of flight arrivals. I was travelling to the airport to meet visiting relatives and we were stuck in a traffic jam. Previously the only means of checking the flight status was to phone the airport, some provided an information service. The first time I was able to open the FlightStats website and see the arrival information, I knew that the flight was delayed and I did not need to worry about getting to the airport in time.

Considering Uber – what was magical about their experience? If you remember having to phone for a taxi and the controller saying the taxi will arrive in 10 mins. After 15 mins you would get frustrated and phone the taxi company again to ask when the taxi was due to arrive. The polite operator would re-assure you that the taxi was on the way and will be with you soon. You were relieved that you had requested the taxi with plenty of time as you had little confidence in predicting how long it would take for he taxi to arrive. With the Uber experience, you are able to see the location of the taxi, get details of the taxi and the driver. This removes the uncertainty that existed before and creates the magical experience.

As we consider ways to create value in the digital economy, the uncertainty that exists in a process or for an individual provides an ideal starting point. Questions such as, when will this device need servicing? What is the condition of the critical elements of the machine? Will the house be warm when I return? When did I last meet this person? These kinds of questions can help identify the outcomes that can be achieved and also estimate the value to be captured. It also helps identify the data required and the supporting systems/technology.

So is the removal of uncertainty at the heart of the digital economy? What is your view?