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Responsible data collection could inspire consumer trust – here’s how

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Nadia Hewett
Project Lead, Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology, World Economic Forum
Dimitri Zabelin
Geopolitical Strategist, Pantheon Insights
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The New Data Economy

This article is part of: Global Technology Governance Summit

This piece originally appeared on Forbes.

  • The pace and volume of data collection and sharing requires better mechanisms to protect citizens' rights and inspire trust.
  • A new report, Data-driven economies: Foundations for a common future, identifies key enablers that can build multistakeholder data sharing frameworks.
  • We've picked out three key themes to help businesses, civil society and governments lay the foundations for a better data sharing future.

Much like we have biological ecosystems that connect with and reinforce others, our digital world continues to grow and become more integrated. However, unlike mother nature, we are the stewards of the data ecosystem, and we need to work together to ensure its growth is ethical, scalable, and secure.

The world is awash with data, the volume of which is growing exponentially. In the last two years alone, 90% of the data in the world was generated. The acceleration of data creation is permeating every aspect of society. To maximize the benefits of data, it is imperative that participants in its collection, sharing, and use, operate in a framework that allows for the optimal and appropriate use of data, while striking a balance that respects the rights of the individual parties involved.


How can responsible data collection inspire trust?

A crucial aspect in leveraging the value of data for maximum societal impact is to foster a digital ecosystem that inspires individuals with confidence and purpose to engage in data sharing. Economic benefits will attract citizens to the data-driven economy, but it needs more than money to make their engagement sustainable. For that, we must ensure a foundation is set for the inclusive and equitable distribution of its rewards and risks on a global scale.

What are some key enablers businesses, civil society and government must get right in order to lay the foundation for a better future through data sharing?

In addressing this question, a new report by the World Economic Forum, Data-driven economies: Foundations for a common future, part of the Data for Common Purpose Initiative (DCPI), identifies the most important enablers to build out multi-stakeholder data sharing frameworks. It frames a focus on, but is not limited to the following topics:

● Access, rights to use, and rewards.

● Governance and oversight.

● Reimagining permissioning mechanisms.

● Inclusion and equitable benefit.

● Tying data value to data use – how to equitably value data.

● Security, confidentiality (including data protection and privacy rights), data integrity

These enablers cut across commercial, technical and policy areas. Not addressing these can undermine or even stifle the ability of data exchanges and/or marketplaces to unlock data for general purposes with equitably apportioned risk and rewards.

Have you read?

Three members of the DCPI community, and contributors to the paper, explore three key themes identified by the initiative.

1. Inspiring citizen engagement and trust in data sharing

Imagine a world where both a 10-year-old and a 90-year-old – and everyone in between – understands how the data they generate through digital activities impacts and improves the world around them. People no longer feel that sharing data is risky because they have complete control and transparency into how their data is being used. This outcome can only be enabled by developing trust in the data-driven economy. This is especially the case for citizens whose lack of understanding, fears of data misuse or exposure to security issues have left them disenfranchised from the digital world.

A recent trend, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has seen a significant rise in the frequency with which consumers share data. In a study conducted by Visa titled 2020 Visa Consumer Empowerment Study, the firm indicates that today 61% of consumers share personal data "most times" they interact with a new application. Also, 46% of consumers share data daily when they shop online. For many consumers, data sharing has become an active routine of everyday modern life.

However, many consumers still do not actively participate in the digital economy. The challenge is to provide them with the clarity, control and comfort to empower them to be confident in active digital participation and data sharing. The best way to address the fear-driven digital divide that threatens to hold back further growth is to give consumers the clarity, control and comfort that they require. The benefits of doing so accrue to everyone.

Robert Hedges, SVP, Global Strategic Initiatives, Visa.


What is the Data for Common Purpose Initiative (DCPI)?

2. Inclusion and equitable benefit

Picture a future where all of the data required to understand the impact of air quality on asthma sufferers was commonly available and usable to reduce the number of pollution-related deaths every year. Furthermore, the positive impacts of this feature could be iterated across multiple domains that may appear unrelated. For example, a fleet of air quality sensors installed to support health apps direct asthma sufferers away from certain streets, could also provide valuable data to traffic planners when designing traffic flows to ensure the same areas are not constantly exposed to high levels of pollution.

Such an idea for an inclusive society has barriers such as economic feasibility (costly to collect all data sets for the service), data engineering (to mediate the heterogeneity of various data sets and pre-process for business uses) and lack of incentives to invest in a solution with limited (asthma sufferers) market size.

Technology has progressed to address such technical barriers. Today’s technology advances allow us to enable scalable and responsible data sharing in ways that were previously impossible. At the same time, there might be other barriers – political, economic or others – that data policy and technology will not address.

With this in mind, key questions to address (and others like this) include:

  • What can you do with the data?
  • Who has rights over it?
  • Who derives the economic benefit?

Other prerequisites accompanying these questions are issues of privacy, ethical uses of data and symmetrical distributions of both the risks and rewards. This ensures that asymmetrical policies are not put in place that in turn disproportionately affect one particular group or groups of people.

The current policy frameworks are centered around the origin of data collection. However, they often neglect the more important step of how the data is used. Designing flexible governance protocols that allow for re-imagined and granular consent mechanisms can provide more transparency to citizens and help organizations manage unforeseen use cases. Fair distribution of benefits and risks to original data providers, data processing vendors and data-driven business entities will also tie the participants to the market.

Fortunately, the rules and regulations around data privacy, security, cross-border sharing, sovereignty and other data topics continue to evolve around the world. Furthermore, data collaboration platforms will need to engage multiple stakeholders to ensure that rule makers see the importance of this distinction.

Kibae Kim, Principal Researcher, KAIST.


What is Authorized Public Purpose Access (APPA)?

3. Global interoperability across data silos and jurisdictions

In the future more coordinated and harmonized approaches to data governance policy and cross-border data flows could help enable responsible and ethical global interoperability. In this vision, networks would work seamlessly within their individual jurisdictions but also embedded with protocols to allow them to connect and share specific data to other platforms. All of this would be done with a citizen-centered focus; that is, ensuring the protection of citizens' rights to data privacy.

This would in turn ensure individual data sovereignty is respected while allowing those very citizens to ethically benefit from the value generated from the insights of their peers' data. However, to enable this outcome, more coordinated and harmonized approaches to data governance policy and cross-border data flows is required.

Furthermore, consent mechanisms need interoperability beyond a small domestic domain. When the world faces the next global crisis, the ability for governments and industry to react swiftly and effectively will be significantly amplified by virtue of the underlying governance framework that allows for the more efficient and secure exchange of data.

Scott Klokis, Director, PwC (and World Economic Forum fellow) and Kurt Fields, Director, PwC (and World Economic Forum fellow).

Looking ahead

The world continues to create data at an exponential rate. However, on a broad scale, it continues to remain somewhat scattered and siloed, and as a result we are not harnessing the full value of it. This is because fundamentally data is useful as insights can be generated from connecting various pieces of the digital puzzle together. To do so, it is imperative that the rewards of data sharing be equitably and securely distributed on a globally interoperable network, underpinned by active citizen engagement. Such a policy foundation is crucial to creating a pragmatic, flexible and ethical framework for data sharing and to unlock more opportunities for the public good.

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