Big Data: The New Frontier of the Digital Economy

AIT's brand new industry-driven MSc in Data Analytics will help bridge the skills gap in Ireland...

Today’s digital economy is characterised by the generation and commodification of one key intangible asset - data. Every second, reams of valuable data, capable of being harvested and analysed, are being produced via a wide range of connected devices. These devices act as a conduit through which startling insights into human behaviour can be revealed. Making sense of this data has become increasingly important to organisations and businesses like Facebook and Google who employ widescale data collection techniques as a way of gaining strategic and competitive advantages in the online advertising space. Their consumers are not paying for the product, they are the product.

While the principles of data analytics emerged from the field of computer science and mathematics, according to Trevor Prendergast, AIT Head of Department of Accounting and Business Computing, the range of uses to which it can be put are only beginning to be realised. “The Big Data era is not only characterised by the volume of data being produced but also the sheer velocity at which it is generated. Making sense of and deriving value from this data is a key skill in demand in this new data-driven economy,” he said.

The global data economy is growing at an exponential rate with approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being produced daily. This number is expected to double every two years with the emergence of new technologies and devices akin to Moore’s Law. As far as Mr Prendergast is concerned, this makes data a more valuable commodity than oil. “Just like oil, data needs to be extracted, refined and stored to generate value but unlike oil, data originates from a surprisingly vast array of sources. This turns the axiom, value is determined by scarcity, on its head. In the digital network economy, value is instead determined by the economics of abundance,” he said.

Demand for suitably qualified graduates is soaring at home and abroad to the extent that Data Analytics is one of the few areas where demand for graduates is exceeding supply. The Irish Government have a stated objective of positioning Ireland as the Big Data Capital of Europe, the express intention of which is to create significant employment opportunities. Internationally, demand for Data Analysts is also on the rise with a projected demand of 28% expected by 2020. A recent report by the Expert Group of Future Skills Needs, revealed that Ireland has a serious paucity of Data Analytics graduates, surprising when you consider that the salary for Data Analysts in Ireland is, on average, €44,758.

In response to this skill gap, Athlone Institute of Technology has developed an industry-focused, contemporary master’s programme designed to furnish graduates with the skills and aptitudes necessary to excel in the emerging field of Big Data and Data Analytics. The one-year full-time programme will introduce students to a range of skills and software in the areas of data manipulation and management, techniques to manage this data and ultimately, analytics methodologies that can elicit meaningful insights from large data sets. “Athlone Institute of Technology is well positioned to upskill employees working in data analytics roles, that do not possess qualifications in this area, with the introduction of this new master’s programme. We have a range of qualified staff, across a number of different disciplines, who are experienced in research and development in the area of data analytics,” Mr Prendergast said.

Commencing September 2018, the MSc in Data Analytics is open to graduates from a wide array of cognate disciplines including those with an Engineering, Science and Business background. According to Aisling Keenan, Lecturer in Web Development in AIT’s Department of Business Computing, programmes such as AIT’s new Bachelor of Science in Business Information Systems will dovetail nicely into the new MSc in Data Analytics. “We’ll be introducing new Data Analytics modules to better prepare students to advance to the MSc in Data Analytics,” she said. Some of these undergraduate modules include Introduction to Data Manipulation, Business Systems Analysis, Probability and Statistics, Applied Data Manipulation, Advanced Statistics Data Analytics and Visualisation and Emerging Database Technologies.

Athlone Institute of Technology’s MSc in Data Analytics will see students will develop their skills in areas including database technologies, data manipulation languages including SQL and the R programming language, programming for Big Data, statistics and probabilities and the interpretation of data. Students will also be required to undertake an industry-led data analytics project in conjunction with one of AIT’s industry partners. Ultimately, AIT is producing data-savvy practitioners capable of gleaning insights from vast quantities of data for the purposes of operational and strategic decision-making.

Interviews for AIT’s MSc in Data Analytics will be held during the week of the 25th of June. For further information, please contact Trevor Prendergast, Head of Department, tprendergast@ait.ie or phone (090) 647 1857. For further details see https://www.ait.ie/courses/mscda

Athlone Institute of Technology is a modern and dynamic HEI distinguished by outstanding learner experience, international focus and applied research and innovation. Awarded Sunday Times Institute of Technology of the Year, AIT is ranked 8th nationally of all HEIs in the league table comprising of Irish Universities and IoT’s. Athlone Institute of Technology boasts a wide array of courses in the Faculties of Engineering and Informatics, Business and Hospitality, and Science and Health. For the full list of undergraduate courses on offer at Athlone Institute of Technology click here. For a full list of postgraduate programmes click here.

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