Sunday, May 7, 2017

Risks of human error in using big data: Another example

Earlier this year, we are social and Hootsuite published a slide deck entitled Digital in 2017 Global Overview, drawing on data from Google, Akamai and other sources.  Overall, this collection of statistics and graphs meets the goal implied in its title, by providing a valuable global overview of the rapidly changing digital landscape.  However, as illustrated by slide 89 (click to see a full-size version of the graphic), the publication also demonstrates the risks that human error can creep into the compilation and publication of such data.  The slide indicates that data came from Akamai.   However, according to the Akamai data, the tall leftmost bar must surely represent data for South Korea, which  has led the world in average download speed since 2007.
The chart at left  (click for a full size version) is from my most recent publication, "Network-centric digital development in Korea: Origins, growth and prospects," published by Telecommunications Policy.  It is based on the same Akamai data referred to in slide 89, but does not include the UK because that country was not among the top tier leaders by this measure.
One of my hobbies over the past decade or more has been collecting examples of errors in research reports and scholarly publications about the ICT sector in Korea.  This slide is definitely an addition to the collection.  I would hope that Hootsuite and we are social might acknowledge the error and publish a correction to this slide.  I'm not holding my breath, but one never knows.  A correction would underscore the importance of accuracy and reliability in reporting of cross national data such as those underlying this slide.

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