When conversations are focused towards public-private data collaboration, frameworks that help navigate the complexity are always invaluable. In that light, I’ve found this year’s theme for Davos, ‘Cooperation in a Fragmented World’, to be uniquely valuable. It not only provides a lens for addressing the increasing number of interlinked global challenges shaping our shared future, it also serves as an effective rear-view mirror for examining the evolution of public-private data collaboration during the past fifteen years.
Fifteen years can fly by quickly! Not that long ago in 2008, the buzz in Davos was about the innovative opportunities for collaboratively using data to empower individuals and improve the state of the world. With freshly minted soundbites stating that data was “the new oil” and that “personal data was a new asset class”, a community of industry, government, academic and civil society leaders collectively aligned on a shared vision where the responsible use of data was central for improving the state of the world.
Over the years, reality set in. As futurist Paul Saffo notes, “a clear view and short distance are not the same”. Things take time. Meaningful and lasting change demands patience, persistence, commitment and resilience.
“The manner in which the data ecosystem is maturing will propel it into a new era where the promise of public-private data collaboration is fully delivered.”
Now that we’re fifteen years down the road, I’m confident in the patience and persistence of the data ecosystem community. I’m confident that the manner in which the data ecosystem is maturing will propel it into a new era where the promise of public-private data collaboration is fully delivered.
I like to think of this moment in time as the beginning of the era of trustworthy connected data. Conceptually, this new era falls within the concluding stage of Gartner’s well known Hype Cycle. It’s the phase known as the Plateau of Productivity where “the real-world benefits of technologies are demonstrated and growing numbers of organizations feel comfortable with the reduced levels of risk.”
When it comes to public-private data collaboration, reaching the Plateau of Productivity has been a true rollercoaster ride. Things took off in 2008 with the global adoption of smartphones, the exponential rise in the use of social media, winner-take-all platform business models, and data monetization strategies built on the principles of surveillance capitalism. It’s fair to say that the history of communications has never grown faster or laid the groundwork for such transformational socio-economic change.
It’s also fair to say that it wasn’t long until the peak of “Inflated Expectations” came crashing back to earth. The descent from the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” to the “Trough of Disillusionment” was swift and brutal. An entangled set of issues related to data privacy, sovereign state jurisdictional claims, the consent of individuals, and outdated regulatory regimes all served to plunge shared hopes into a deep morass.
At the center of it all was the abuse and loss of trust. While assessing the consequences from this lack of trust is beyond the scope of this discussion, it is suffice to say it has brought about chronic fragmentation between the legal, technical, development and commercial stakeholder communities. Public-private data collaboration for the common good has been highly challenging to say the least.
“A committed community of business, government and privacy leaders are actively working to make the data ecosystem more trustworthy, secure, sustainable and fair.”
But things are changing. During the past few years significant work has been done to strengthen systemic trust, close the trust deficit, climb out of the trough of disillusionment and ascend the “slope of enlightenment”. A committed community of business, government and privacy leaders are actively working to make the data ecosystem more trustworthy, secure, sustainable, and fair. It warrants our deep appreciation.
Whether its distributed computational architectures, privacy enhancing technologies, risk-based data governance frameworks, business models built on equitable value apportionment or applying the principles of human centered design for improved consent management, all of these innovations are being adopted and here to stay. Collectively, all of this work serves to lower shared risks, creates new markets and unlocks the power of data to drive better decisions in a complex and rapidly changing world.
Evidence of the transition from the “Slope of Enlightenment” to the “Plateau of Productivity” abounds. Large scale investment is happening across multiple industry sectors at the data infrastructure, analytics and user interface layers. Investors and regulators are aligning on standardized ESG outcome measurements to ensure impact is measured consistently to ensure results are achieved.
“Open Banking is the first of multiple industry sectors to address the current fragmentation and advance the adoption of widespread, trustworthy, public-private data collaboration.”
The progress occurring within the Financial Services sector and Open Banking holds great promise. The rails of this secure and enterprise grade data infrastructure can be leveraged to connect different data sets across industry sectors for an array of use cases. Having both an enterprise grade data infrastructure, and the means to meaningfully engage with individuals for their consent to use it, Open Banking is the first of multiple industry sectors to address the current fragmentation and advance the adoption of widespread, trustworthy, public-private data collaboration.
Yet despite this optimism, there is one unanswered question that routinely comes up during Davos and it almost always falls on deaf ears. What’s the cost of inaction? With all of the progress to collaboratively use data in unprecedented and trustworthy ways, what’s the cost of not collectively acting with focus, intent and urgency.
The scale and scope of our most pressing global challenges – forced migration, food crises, carbon emissions, droughts, fires, floods, wars, unemployment, geopolitical instability – all demand access to the best data, the best tools and the best decisions possible. In fifteen years from now, will we look back to 2023 and say we leveraged the power of connected data to its fullest extent? Did we act collaboratively despite the challenges of a fragmented world? I’m confident the answer will be yes!