Catherine Rampell's bitingly witty new WaPo column argues that public and private sectors should both "put data to good use." I agree with that point, but disagree when she says that this isn’t happening. The truth is that the private sector already uses data for good. And while Rampell doesn't see the value of odd ads crafted by richly rewarded Valley types, I see them as the long tail of our data-driven economy.
I see 5 key values of data:
- Power to transform - disruption of the status quo
- Access to opportunity - opens up new fields
- Potential for people - alters the way we live
- Impact on the economy - creates value across all sectors
- Serendipity of use - new uses for old data
On February 28, the Bureau of Economic Analysis revised fourth quarter U.S. GDP growth downward to just 2.4% (from an initial estimate of 3.2%). For 2013, the economy expanded just 1.9%, nearly a point lower than the lackluster 2.8% growth of 2012. Five years after the sharp downturn of 2008-09, we are still just limping along.
Granted, the stock market keeps making all-time highs. That is not insignificant, and in the past rising stock values often signaled growth ahead.
Today, as ever, man seeks to comprehend the world more coherently. We aim to identify and better understand the trends shaping society so that we can better anticipate their opportunities and challenges.
For the past 20 years, the mega-trend of globalization has been the central driver of human progress—transforming society, politics, economics, and commerce. While globalization is here to stay, a wider spectrum of trends are in play that will significantly shape life in the years ahead.
Offered here are a set of “catalysts” driving change in society and the economy. They are a function of markets, innovation, investment, marketing, planning, and policymaking. In many cases, the factors are inter-connected. In combination they have networked effects.
The better we understand these trends and the interplay between them, the better our ability to understand their future implications. We can also better see and seize opportunity, identify and avert obstacles, and prepare for the downsides that inevitably accompany social, economic, or political change.
Farming is hard work – really hard. It’s not just the backbreaking labor and long hours. Farmers are some of the private sector’s biggest risk takers. Each season, they invest hundreds of thousands of dollars before a seed ever touches the soil, and come harvest time, there is no guarantee they will be in the black. There are so many variables involved – from weather patterns to soil composition to consumer demands – that you might call successful farming as much an art as a science. It can also be a gamble. Today, however, there are new innovations in U.S. agriculture that take some of the guesswork out of farming.
In the middle of an anemic economic recovery, many of us are looking for something to kick-start U.S. economic growth. If we want to learn from history, here’s an idea: Look to America’s military veterans. Veterans saved the economy before, and they can do it again. And even though capital is tight, today’s veterans have a secret weapon.
1. Veterans are natural business owners.
Surveys show that military service is one of the strongest predictors of business ownership. Military veterans make up only 6% of the U.S. population but nearly 15% of business owners, and these businesses produce a whopping $1.6 trillion in annual receipts and employ 8.2 million Americans.
2. Veterans have done this before.
Following WWII when our grandparents, the “Greatest Generation,” turned their swords into plowshares, the economy boomed. During that period, nearly half (49.7%) of WWII veterans started or owned their own business, and America enjoyed an economic golden age.