The power of big data

The importance of big data across all fields of society is undeniable and ever increasing. It’s helping solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. Learning how to interpret and use data effectively is the key to deciphering the world, forecasting the future and creating an inspiring career.

An example of the critical nature of big data use can be applied to the current global pandemic. A large number of countries around the world have made enormous data sets freely available, providing a vast amount of information to scientists, health workers and epidemiologists, helping them understand the COVID-19 virus and make informed decisions about how to fight it.

Professor Rob Hyndman, Head of the Department of Econometrics and Business Statistics at Monash Business School works with some of Australia's most prominent epidemiologists, mathematicians, forecasters and statisticians, to produce a weekly report for the country’s top leaders. The analysis and forecasting provided by this diverse expert panel principally informs key decisions that are being made by federal, state and territory leaders.

“This really is a marathon. Not only do we create new forecasts every week for the different states and territories based on what we know today. We also have to modify the models every week as reality changes, such as the vaccine rollout and when we see the new more infectious variants of the virus,” says Professor Hyndman.

"The technical skills I’ve developed at Monash make me feel really confident and ready to step into the workforce..."

Big data is being used to track the virus, to understand disease transmission, as well as facilitate contact tracing and health monitoring. It has led to a range of medical and policy innovations, including new technologies, treatments and prevention systems to help control the spread and impact of the virus. One very important influence of big data during the pandemic is in forecasting the expected behaviour of the virus as conditions change.

The team works with available data from countries across the globe. In addition, Australian mobility data from Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple is also fed into the models to see how much people interact and where they are interacting for example in supermarkets, parks and workplaces.

“I had never done epidemiological forecasting before. I have forecast lots of different things in the past and the tools are similar, but this was new. Although building a forecasting ensemble anywhere is not that different,” he says.

Australia’s forecasting is different to every other country as the team is working with a precise probabilistic ensemble, which according to Professor Hyndman, gives a superior result.

Master of Business Analytics at Monash Business School

“The US, for example, uses around 13 different models but not all are capable of producing a full probability distribution. Australia has a smaller number of models with richer information in each model, whereas America has more models but less information coming from each model,” he says.

Being able to analyse big data in an appropriate and relevant way is key to understanding how to use it. This not only applies to the pandemic but to all fields where big data sets are used from government to corporate or not-for-profits.

As a data analyst trained in the Master of Business Analytics at Monash Business School you will be taught by some of the world’s most renowned experts in econometrics and business statistics. You will learn how to detect problems and assess ethical complications, how to turn raw data into analysable data and how to cultivate a fluid and thorough workflow.

“Data analytics really allows me to marry the creative thinking and strategic thinking with the maths behind the models we use. The technical skills I’ve developed at Monash make me feel really confident and ready to step into the workforce and really tackle a problem right from the start to finish,” says Stephanie Kobakian.

Business analytics bridges the gap between IT and business by using analytics to provide data-driven recommendations. The business part requires a deep understanding of business, while the analytics part requires solid skills in understanding data, statistics, and R coding.

A Master of Business Analytics at Monash will help you develop this broad range of essential skills which will open doors to exciting, diverse job prospects. You will explore cutting-edge techniques and rigorous foundations in statistical thinking, probabilistic modelling and computational techniques. Skills that are powering the jobs of the future and relevant across all industries.

Find out more about the Master of Business Analytics.