Is Data really the world’s most valuable resource, the oil of its day?
That’s the scenario being posited as the lead story on the front page of The Economist – and what this titan of financial publishing and thought says, others listen to.
Of course, here at digi.me we have long been big believers in the power of data to transform and innovate, for individuals, businesses, society and even governments.
But we also know we’re riding the front of a wave, to some degree waiting for the world to catch up with us about the importance of both protecting and owning the elements that make up your very own, very personal digital footprint.
Thankfully, the importance of personal data is an issue that is pushing itself more and more to the forefront of discussion and awareness with every passing month. Incoming EU legislation, the GDPR, which has a great focus on individual power over personal data, will also force more conversations and visibility ahead of its implementation in a year’s time.
But the main Economist article and associated briefing is a great primer for those hoping to get up to speed on this important issue, straddling as it does the middle line between data’s power and the issues misuse of it can cause.
For example, it is clear that: “Data are to this century what oil was to the last one: a driver of growth and change. Flows of data have created new infrastructure, new businesses, new monopolies, new politics and—crucially—new economics.
“Digital information is unlike any previous resource; it is extracted, refined, valued, bought and sold in different ways. It changes the rules for markets and it demands new approaches from regulators.
“Many a battle will be fought over who should own, and benefit from, data.”
But it also adds: “There is cause for concern. Internet companies’ control of data gives them enormous power. Old ways of thinking about competition, devised in the era of oil, look outdated in what has come to be called the “data economy”. A new approach is needed.”
Its clarity, too, on what has fuelled this new approach: “What has changed? Smartphones and the internet have made data abundant, ubiquitous and far more valuable.” adds to its authority – this is a well-researched article, and all the more enjoyable for that.
It is a wide-ranging and very thorough piece, looking at all elements of the data economy (not just personal) and in particular what should be done with the Amazons, Googles and Ubers who own, or have access, to huge swathes of it.
Specifically looking at the personal data economy, it speaks of consumers and online giants being “locked in an awkward embrace…but…also showing symptoms of what is called “learned helplessness”: terms and conditions for services are often impenetrable and users have no choice than to accept them (smartphone apps quit immediately if one does not tap on “I agree”).”
It adds: “For their part, online firms have become dependent on the drug of free data: they have no interest in fundamentally changing the deal with their users. Paying for data and building expensive systems to track contributions would make data refiners much less profitable.”
Once again, we couldn’t agree more with this analysis of the current state of data trading – but we are confident that the Internet of Me, and the data revolution that platforms such as digi.me which operate under its principles will bring, are a full and proper solution to these issues. And moreover, a solution that is set to take the world by storm.