Consider the following items: instant photography, duct tape, Tupperware, the microwave oven. What do they have in common? They were all invented in the 1940s, the same decade the economic survey techniques – utilized today – were created.

These methods of collecting economic statistics were revolutionary at the time and served their purpose. Today though, whether intended or not, one-size-fits-all figures are seemingly irrelevant in a widely diverse nation. Why?

Key themes are antiquated:

Time Late Data

Want to know consumer spending in New York, here is the report. Consumer households in the metro area spent, on average, 6.2% and 14.0% higher than households in the Northeast and US as a whole, respectively, during 2012. Despite being released in 2014, this is the most recent data.

Inaccurate Information

CNBC reported Q1 GDP “could be revised” to show a 0.2% contraction rather than 0.7%. The problem? The article—released June 10th—comes more than two months after Q1 and still lacks certainty.

Cherry Picking

Unemployment is the classic example. The BLS reported a 5.5% rate in May, which pales the 10.0% one in October 2009. Why the sudden drop? Among other things, the US labor force in December 2014 had its lowest participation rate since February 1978, or thirty-seven years ago. So yes, the unemployment rate did go down, but so too were fewer people working or looking for work. It is easy highlighting statistics you want.

Despite these shortcomings, investors and pundits anxiously await the data’s release, and their actions lead people to believe these reports drive markets and capital decisions. In reality, it probably only impacts short-term traders versus long-term investors, and pundits chasing the story of the day. Most individuals following the economy know these government reports to be virtually obsolete.

Because the reports’ findings are obsolete does not mean the reports’ missions are unimportant. Data that is timely, accurate and relevant – characteristics to which government reports aspire – is needed today more than ever. Big data can do that, and it will be the new competitive advantage.

Case in point: Google. The Company’s chief economist, Hal Varian, recognized limitations with government releases but pointed to several private sector firms (i.e. Google, MasterCard, Federal Express, UPS, Intuit, etc.) as sources of data on real-time economic activity, and then shared his Company’s use case.

During the midst of the Great Recession, Google compared user searches and related economic indicators; here is what the Post had to say about it:

The Company’s data can improve the accuracy of standard estimates of economic data in a current month as much as 10 percent.

Utilizing big data enables timely, accurate and relevant findings. The same cannot be said about our current, albeit decades-old, method. Just look at the case of instant photography pioneer, Polaroid: the Company filed for bankruptcy twice in the 2000s, and we now have apps called Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. My guess is it will not be very long until government reports in their current form are functionally obsolete, too.