Big dreams and crossing borders

Last week MDeC launched the Big Community portal, a site for experts and enthusiasts of big data to gather, share and discuss anything big data. We got hold of the head honcho behind this project, General Manager of Asia Online Publishing Group, Melina Hwang, to talk about the hows and whys of this portal, and what future she is looking to. 

What inspired you to initiate this platform and why specifically on Big Data?

The birth of Big Community Portal materialized following our involvement in Big Data Week 2015. We co-organised the main event with MDeC and realised that the thousands of people who attended has an appetite for learning and collaborating more on Big Data. We felt an online portal would allow that learning and collaboration to continue.  We also believe that the responsibility for promoting Big Data in Malaysia does not lay solely with government and MDeC but is with the private sector also.  We felt AOPG could contribute by building this portal. 
My team and I have analysed the Big Data scene in Malaysia and we came to the conclusion that an interactive portal for all interested parties whether that be Government, Private Sector, Academia or individuals would be of great value in supporting the Big Data ecosystem in Malaysia and South East Asia.
Whether we realize it or not we are all being affected by Big Data every day. The recommendations that pop up when we buy something online are derived by analysing spending habits of millions of similar purchasers. When we use Waze or Google Maps to plot our journey it routes in real time based on analysis of road conditions and traffic flow. If you buy books from Amazon your orders are being picked by “Kiva” robots which improve their own efficiency by machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) as does their best- selling Echo appliance. Machine Learning and AI are both big data driven disciplins.   I even heard on CNN today how Big Data is being used to try and predict terror attacks before they happen. 

The point is the world is moving forward driven by insights from data and Malaysia and South Asia need to equip to be part of this. That involves improving our abilities and knowledge in all areas of Big data. 
We hope that as a one stop shop for bringing information and news about Big Data together that the Big Community Portal will contribute in some small way to the aspiration to become a “Big Nation”!
We feel that in Malaysia, when comparing with other nations, there is more restriction of access to data. It’s probably easier to get access to open data in Singapore – wouldn’t it make more sense to develop a big data platform for the industry in other countries? Why Malaysia? What potential do you see in the Malaysian market? 

We are a Malaysian Company and we have developed this portal in partnership with MDeC who of course have a remit to manage Malaysia’s Framework for Big Data. So from that perspective the portal does have a Malaysia Centric View and perhaps our first priority is to help Malaysians to skill up on big data.

You are correct that other countries in the region are doing a lot in Big Data. Singapore is leading the way; however, the Big Community is about bringing knowledge together from across the whole region. We believe Malaysians will benefit by collaborating with like-minded people from all of the South East Asian Countries.

So we see the Big Community as building an ecosystem that is regional and not just restricted to Malaysia.

What do you hope to achieve with this platform?

I hope the Big Community spurs inspiration in anyone that has an interest in Big Data. Our aim is to build an online community of like-minded people across South East Asia and hope in doing so make sure we promote Malaysia’s capabilities in this ecosystem.

We also want to make expert knowledge from outside the region available to Big Community subscribers.  That's why we have recruited renowned Big Data Scientists from all over the world in our “Big Experts” section who will be sharing their knowledge and experience and will be reachable vie the portal to answer questions.

How do you plan to attract big data professionals to the portal? What can people take away from visiting your site?

We will be promoting the portal through social media and through networking with other interested parties. We have also built the portal to ensure that it contains content that will prove useful on an ongoing basis to anyone that visits. Big Community is a centralised repository for news, events, job boards, academic courses and blogs written by experts around the world!

We are reaching out on a daily basis to organisations, companies, educational establishments, and individuals who we think will benefit from having access to this information.   

We hope that the depth and type of content brought together on a platform that enables discussion and collaboration will help the Big Data Community get connected and stay connected!
The editorial team agrees that big data is important, if not essential, to our lives. With a platform like this, we believe it will bring together different people from different industries to expand and develop the big data scene in South East Asia.
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