How Southeast Asian companies can participate in the growing data economy

Global commerce has been redefined by the proliferation of the digital economy. E-commerce giants in Southeast Asia such as Lazada, Grab and Shopee have created a new economy as data becomes more crucial to the success of businesses. Data is becoming the way for companies to know and understand their customers’ preferences and behaviours. Along with a dramatic increase in internet users in Southeast Asia, the region is an exciting demonstration of digital growth. In the latest iteration of an annual report by Google and Temasek, the companies revised their prediction of the internet economy’s size in 2025 from $200 billion to $240 billion.

For companies in the region, it is an important time to get involved in the digital revolution changing how businesses operate and interact with customers. As the data universe explodes in size to over 44 trillion gigabytes and traditional industries continue to be disrupted by digitalization, it’s no surprise that data collaboration has become the hottest innovation trend for 2020. After all, the data opportunity is so ripe. IDC estimates that less than 0.5% of all data collected is actually analyzed and used. Customers only spend a fraction of their time, attention and money with individual companies, and there is vast amounts of data sitting with external parties that can build an accurate picture of the customer. Data sharing and commercialisation are powerful processes that can unlock insights about customers, and drive the development of new products and services.

In the last few years, the public and private sectors in Singapore have decided to improve data governance practices and develop the capability to share data internally and externally. For these organisations, the data governance process begins with:

  1. Assessing the available data within an organisation
  2. Estimating the value of the data
  3. Ensuring data quality
  4. Confirming baseline metadata are encapsulated within datasets
  5. Ongoing data ownership and stewardship
  6. Authorisation management to determine the scope of data sharing, and any associated constraints and obligations.

Once the data governance framework is in place, organisations can then turn their attention to ensuring that this data is accessible throughout the organisation, instead of being locked away in siloed departments. Many companies store their data separately in various operational application databases including web analytics, marketing and sales, customer service, and finance. This makes it difficult to get a complete picture of operations and lowers the value of organisational information when it can’t flow between functions. Utilising specifically designed data discovery and governance solutions can significantly improve the ability to access data on a permitted use basis, ensuring security, privacy and trust for all interactions with data across a business. From here, companies can look towards external data exchange, the next step on the data economy journey.

Data exchange projects can range from data enrichment, pooling between organisations within an industry and sharing between two or more partners. Used correctly, external data sharing can increase the accuracy of marketing and communications activities to particular audiences, as well as return on investment (ROI). More importantly, it allows organisations to allocate resources and deliver services more effectively based on real-time data. With the right processes, governance and technology, the potential for data collaboration is really limitless.

Commercialisation, one of the more advanced stages of data collaboration maturity, is the sharing of data that offers a buyer valuable business intelligence or other advantages in exchange for payment. Until fairly recently, data was largely seen as an indirect resource for most organisations to better design and market its revenue-generating core goods and services. As a result, organisations are missing out on the revenue that data could create as the data economy flourishes. Secure data exchange infrastructure changes this equation by empowering organisations to make their data more liquid, expanding its role from a resource for strategic decision-making to an asset that generates revenue on its own.

For companies in Southeast Asia that are seriously considering exchanging data with another organisation or just want to ensure that internal teams are prepared for the emerging data economy, it’s a good idea to have a comprehensive data governance strategy in place that ensures customer privacy and data security. Once the foundations for data collaboration are in place, new insights and revenue from data can have transformative effects for businesses. The companies that remain on the sidelines may not be able to catch up later.