When you are a CEO of a global company you get a front row seat to what makes some organizations so successful with data and you are humbled by the fact that it is not just about a technology. It is about connecting all of your people, all of your data, and all of your ideas. This combination is what brings new possibilities to life.

I want to share with you stories of organizations that my firm has worked with that show the power of all three of these factors and how they are coming together to truly transform people’s lives, their health, and the environment.

A Humanitarian Medical Supply Chain

A big part of how data is changing the world is that it is being used in more agile ways than ever before. An organization called Direct Relief acts as the humanitarian supply chain for those affected by poverty or emergency situations by mobilizing and shipping essential medical resources.

When they get medical supplies donated from major suppliers they cannot predict amounts and timeframes when they will receive supplies. They also cannot predict when and where these supplies will be needed, because world events can change in a day. They are now equipped with processes and systems to see every piece of inventory and every recipient in need in real time. They visually display this data on monitors posting the top items for shipment. A quick glance at the map and they can see where most goods are needed.

Drill down and they can ask questions in the data to ensure expiration dates meet shipping time requirements. Just as importantly, partners can also proactively see the products that Direct Relief needs and can send new supplies in a proactive, timely manner. No delays, no waste.

African Woman Microfinancing Their Futures

Another practical approach to linking people, data and ideas involves coalitions of women in Africa who participate in a village investor’s program where they pool their money – not donated money but their own money – to create a fund for business opportunities from selling tomatoes, to sewing clothing.

This group is all about the trust between its members to give small loans to each other to gain a livelihood. Through their work with an organization called WeSeeHope, these groups are entering simple data of what they are selling each week, where demand is, what funds are available, and what profits have resulted.

There are about 300 of these groups across Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Tanzania totaling almost 7,000 women. And they are using data to get smarter to empower each other. They learn what is selling best where, and they are uncovering opportunities -- like where no one is selling fish in a region.

The groups had goals of gaining the equivalent of $3 a day, and through this data exchange they have averaged $5 to $7 each day, often doubling their expected income. It’s hard for us to imagine that the equivalent of the money we spend on coffee or a sandwich each day can have any impact. But for these women and their families it may be the difference to move out of dire poverty and build stronger lives.

Big Data Solutions for Water Scarcity

We are also part of the Clinton Global Initiative and as active members I can tell you that it is full of a lot of smart people with different perspectives and deep knowledge in specialized areas. I had the honor of attending their annual meeting recently where we announced a new multi-year CGI Commitment to Action to address water availability and quality issues across the globe.

To uncover new perspectives and insights we joined forces with Circle of Blue, Columbia Water Center, University of California Irvine and Pacific Institute who have come together with us and Twitter to bring together separate data sources to learn from groundwater supplies and related water flows in California, the American West and eventually the world.

By uniting data policy makers, corporations, and the public, people will be able to access and visualize scientific and technical information in an approachable way. If this is truly about ideas, let’s welcome the ideas of involved citizens closest to the issues, who may just have thought about a factor that scientists and academics have not considered.

I mentioned the notion of connecting people, data, and ideas to unlock new possibilities. I just referred to examples, all which started with ideas where people and data created impactful solutions. Ideas of any proportion can come to life when connected with people and data. Some ideas are very big, some may start small and grow, but in either case the possibilities seem endless.

What made every single one of these stories possible? Why were they so successful? Because they were able to see the whole story in their data.

(About the author: Lars Björk is CEO at Qlik)

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