The use of Big Data could unlock as much as $5 trillion in economic value a year, and it’s falling on colleges and universities to ensure such a boon happens.

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Big Data could unlock up to $5 trillion in economic value.

Higher education institutions in recent years have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in data research and tools. Some universities are putting up this money themselves, while others are relying on government and organization grants.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Sloan Foundation have pledged $37.8 million to the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Washington, and New York University for Big Data collaboration over the next five years.

IBM has partnered with more than 1,000 institutions around the world to create Big Data seminars, courses, and even full masters programs.

This the final part of an eCampus News series on the power and pitfalls of Big Data in higher education. Click here to read Part One, and click here to read Part Two.

The value for companies like IBM goes beyond just the obvious benefit of selling data tools to schools.

The demand for people with data analytics skills is expected to increase by 24 percent over the next 8 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In two years, there will be 4.4 million jobs dealing with Big Data.

That’s far more jobs than people who can do them, said Jim Spohrer, director of Global University Relations Programs at IBM, calling the problem a “Big Data skills gap.”

“From all sectors, there’s just a tremendous demand for it, so we’re working with our customers and stakeholders,” Spohrer said. “This is the kind of thing IBM does routinely, like in the 60s and 70s with mainframes. These kinds of new opportunities require new skills, and it’s a natural part of our business to do these private public partnerships to increase the number of people with those skills.”

Ellen Wagner, executive director of the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, said she expects to see more and more institutions teaching data science to students, but it’s hard to tell if the workforce will be as large as IBM predicts it will need to be in just a few years.


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