When historians look back on 2020, I believe they’ll observe a shocking disruption in society’s evolutionary patterns. Lessons it would have taken years to learn were discovered nearly overnight. Acceptance of new ideas accelerated in ways we’ve not seen before. People tried new things (sometimes willingly, sometimes not), and in many cases, really enjoyed the experiences that came out of it.
As a culture, we also confirmed once and for all the notion that knowledge is power. When humans are armed with the truth – whether discovered on their own or with the increasing help of machines – they are capable of incredible change.
Data influence felt strongly during pandemic response
The fact is that today, truth and knowledge come from data, or more to the point, data analytics. Throughout COVID-19, the impending recession and the global cries for racial equity, we felt the influence of data very strongly – in good ways and in not-so-good ways.
- We discovered the value of contact tracing data to slow the spread of a deadly pandemic, and at the same time, learned that bogus contact tracing apps could be used to steal personal data.
- We found out how perfectly suited quantum processing and algorithms are to finding cures for diseases, yet how ill-suited they are to performing soft tasks, such as determining prison sentences and parole.
- Within the movement, we used data to build personalized relief programs for the most vulnerable members, while our big bank counterparts used the same data to deny PPP and other loans to struggling individuals and businesses.
Lack of data is a serious handicap
In addition to all the concrete good and bad uses of data, we also uncovered multiple “Wouldn’t it have been nice” scenarios. The lack of data was an obvious handicap to the pandemic response, as well as to society’s confrontation of lingering racial inequity.
- Take ventilators, for example. While it’s hard to believe, given today’s democratization of cloud-based data tools, there is no national database to track these lifesaving assets. Wouldn’t it have been nice if there had been? Then, hospitals with the greatest need could have more easily sourced ventilators from hospitals without as many cases.
- The same could be said for doctors. Did you know there were some doctors who have the skills and the desire to move into hotspots temporarily to help out the cities hit hardest by COVID-19, but they were denied because of the terms of their visas? Wouldn’t it have been nice to have a predictive model that officials could use to confidently make exceptions to work visa rules to help medical teams fight back against the virus?
- Data could also be a powerful tool to help mitigate the ripple effects of police misconduct in the U.S. While the FBI has made an effort to establish a database on use of force, less than half of the country’s police agencies are participating. Wouldn’t it have been nice if there was a highly rewarding, simple-to-use interface that would encourage greater participation in such an effort?
Big data is soon to become giant data
There’s no doubt that the heightened awareness around the power and influence of data will accelerate the field of analytics. The creativity and ingenuity that has come out of the global, collective struggles humans are facing will manifest in entirely new analytics capabilities across all aspects of life.
What’s really exciting is that our cultural willingness to adapt data analytics is hitting at an ideal time. The “big data” we’ve all been talking about for two decades is about to become “giant data.” Half the world—predominantly poor and rural communities—still has no Internet access, but that’s about to change. Imagine the analytics possibilities that will open up when satellite Internet like Elon Musk’s Space X brings another 150 million humans online.
Credit union boards and members expect analytics leadership
Credit unions are poised to become leaders in the deployment of new analytics tools, as well as in service to the newly online. Your board and members are not only open to your use of personal data to improve financial health; they expect it. Underpinned by data analytics, “people helping people” evolves for the digital era, delivering financial experiences so hyper-personalized members won’t even think of leaving their credit union.
Of all the lessons we’ve learned so far in 2020, one of the biggest is that disruption is never 100 percent predictable. Although analytics gets us close to being able to see the future, we can never truly know what surprises are waiting around the corner.
As an industry, we must be nimble enough to weather the unexpected storms and unprecedented opportunities that confront the members we serve. Every brick on the footpath to that new reality is made from data. With insights on who needs us most, we will live out the “people helping people” spirit in entirely new, entirely inclusive ways that both acknowledge our past while seeing the possibilities of our future.