The Big Data Boom Is the Innovation Story of Our Time

Innovation and Economic Growth

Article Snapshot


Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee


The Atlantic, November 21, 2011


This article provides a lay summary of recent developments in business uses of big data sets.

Policy Relevance

Governments could utilize methods employing large-scale data analysis and experimentation to improve their efficiency and provide better services to constituents.

Main Points

  • Information technology permits businesses to track an immense quantity of customer behavior, cheaply.
    • For example, a web site operated by a business is likely to track click patters, search terms, and purchases.
    • Businesses can also track their internal operations; for example, UPS collects information about delivery times and truck routes.
  • Large quantities of data enable good prediction, but these data can be exploited further by arranging for experiments.
    • For example, may display different home pages to different groups of visitors, and Google typically runs more than 100 experiments daily across its products.
  • The value of experiments is further increased by increasing their scale and breadth.


Get The Article

Find the full article online

Search for Full Article