Data Democracy is power in the hands of many
Why is data democracy such an urgent issue in our society and how do we achieve this?
You google some random product. The ad for that product pops up on several unrelated pages you check out later. You may find this intrusion less discomforting than the idea that someone is amassing data about you. There’s no way to entirely tell how this data is used or how much insight such data generates about users. I mean, imagine a company knowing more about you than you know about yourself. This implies they can not only predict but also mould your behaviour.
This is one reason why data is so powerful. Data is the 21st century currency of power and organisations with the most information are the most powerful. And as power-hungry corporations jostle for leadership in the data race, the threat of information monopoly from the likes of Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebook is only more real.
The good ol’ political adage reads: ‘Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. For example, how many times recently have you read in the news of how Facebook, with well over 2.2 billion users, unethically influences political ideals or elections via misinformation campaigns?
A data democracy is the right of every individual. The GDPR initiative is only one means to this end but a lot still needs to be done to establish the democratisation of data. Data must empower people, and help enforce equality, collaboration, democracy, and innovation in our society. That is the strength of a data democracy.
Obstacles to data democracy
A mind boggling load of data is generated each day; researchers say about 2.5 quintillion bytes. Now consider this: about 90% of that data was generated only in the last two years. And this is only the beginning. However, only very few people have the ability to process and act upon data. This massive divide between data generated and data literacy is a key issue in the democratisation of data. Another key issue is the low adoption of analytical tools among organisations. These issues can be effectively addressed. For example, ease of use and user engagement are critical in the design of analytical tools to foster adoption.
So how can data get into the hands of many?
- We need more regulations that maintain data security, privacy, and decentralisation. GDPR is a great start. An increasing number of digital business leaders are starting to embrace the dialogue on the societal impact of technology, which will include a fresh look at how the digital rights of people.
- Data literacy is a key step in getting data into the hands of many. In the past, data and its analysis was work left to a small group of highly skilled professionals. But not so no. As more people understand and know how to use data, they can make more informed decisions about their lives and the society as a whole. Data literate leaders who can foster data-centric cultures amongst those they lead is vital today.
- People need easier access to data. Technological platforms that thrive on collaboration, and information sharing can make data more accessible to individuals, and organisations.