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Innovation through collaboration – Why the UK needs to share data globally

We live in an undeniably connected world, one in which the power of data and the ability to share it has become critical. Since the explosion of the Internet, the amount of information created and shared has grown exponentially. By 2019, according to Cisco, there will be nearly 3.9 billion Internet users globally and over nine networked devices per person in the UK alone.

This potentially means that between 2014-2019 nearly as much traffic will traverse global IP networks than all prior “Internet years” combined. To put that into perspective, that’s 118 billion in minutes of video content crossing the internet monthly, or rather, 44,717 minutes of video streaming per second.

With copious amounts of data generated by smart cities, cloud applications, mobility and the Internet of Things, the opportunities to garner real and actionable insight to improve businesses, societies and nations alike, are huge. Effective traffic management, improved medical diagnosis or reduced wastage, are just some of the benefits of data driven technologies. If public and private organisations shared information more freely, the public would see a noticeable impact on their daily lives, whether they are at the doctors, shopping online, paying bills or simply watching the news.

Yet despite this infinite rise in generated data, most is unfortunately out of sight and inaccessible to researchers, developers and entrepreneurs. Consumer distrust towards the way in which data is used and managed has dramatically impeded users’ willingness to share their personal information - a significant roadblock within the data value chain. Similarly, data collecting organisations that hold data, due to a lack of understanding of the inherent value that can be driven by data sharing, are other inhibitors.

Working towards a collaborative data exchange may sound easier said than done, yet, it is most certainly possible. The first step is to ensure that digital stakeholders, whether they are businesses developing data-reliant technologies or public sector organisations, manage and share data in a collaborative way and within a safe, trusted environment. In doing so, data-owners will be able to unlock the value of their existing datasets and improve business efficiency, by utilising the access to a community of data experts to help them make sense of their data. By the same token, data scientists will be able to mix datasets that were once closed to build on their own test beds.

The Digital Catapult and Singapore’s data-sharing partnership, Data City, Data Nation project, which is supported by many key Singapore and UK Government Ministries and Agencies, is just one example of the ways in which data collaboration can drive innovation. The Digital Catapult is working with Singapore-based Newton Circus and its DEX subsidiary to create and manage the first of its kind ‘data sandbox’ that will provide managed access to billions of data points provided by the public and private sector, so that both cities can become living labs for innovation. The initiative enables international entrepreneurs and members of the global data, development and innovation community to unlock the huge potential of data so as to develop smart solutions to real life challenges of both Singapore and London. Workshops and a competitive process to develop products and services to address city specific challenges will be a critical element of this partnership.

This is just one example of the way that data collaboration can be achieved and the benefits it will realise on a national and global level. Building trust in the use and sharing of data is the responsibility of every digital stakeholder in the UK. It is a joint effort, which needs to be a focus for the Government, business, academia and the public, and it is only through open collaboration between all parties that the true economic, financial and social value of data can be unleashed.

Many businesses that are developing new technologies, especially those tailored towards the Internet of Things, are doing so to address problems that have global consequences. Innovations in healthcare, smart cities, smart homes and the modern workplace impact people from around the world. Data-sharing initiatives such as that between the UK and Singapore are pertinent for helping innovative businesses scale up and address larger markets and opportunities globally.

With research estimating that EU consumer data will be worth 1 trillion euros to the economy by 2020, it is about time organisations started to realise the value of sharing data sets. It is critical for all digital stakeholders to share data collaboratively not only to benefit businesses and the customers they serve, but to accelerate the development and harness the opportunities of society-changing technologies.

This however all begins with trust, which lies at the very centre and acts as a key instigator of data-driven innovation.

Andrew Carr, Chief Operating Officer, The Digital Catapult

Image source: Shutterstock/Natasa Adzic