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The future of data collaboration: inclusivity and inclusive growth

(Image credit: Image Credit: Oblong Industrites)

History is littered with examples of people who sought to accumulate a precious resource in their quest for great wealth and power. An example of this is John D. Rockefeller, the American industrialist with a monopoly on oil, who became the first American oil tycoon in 1882.

Today, data is the new oil.

However, unlike oil, data is not a limited resource, isn’t subject to geopolitical considerations, and has no competition from other renewable sources of data. Until recently, large organisations alone, which had the data and the resources to utilise it, used data innovatively to strengthen their position in the marketplace. Today, data collaboration is becoming a game-changer for all levels of society. Everyone can harness the power of data now.

Why data collaboration is the future of business

Another significant difference between oil and data is value. The value of data isn’t determined by demand and supply economics. Unlike oil, its value actually increases with use. Democratisation of data and the use of it to serve a higher purpose can only lead to greater sustainability of an organisation and society as a whole. In this new paradigm, data collaboration will be a key determinant of the future of the digital economy. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), between 2017 and 2019, the number of organisations participating in data collaboration increased from 21 per cent to 40 per cent.

Customers often perceive businesses as being driven primarily by profit. With the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), data collaboration gives businesses the opportunity to change that perception by increasing innovation and enhancing customer experience. Data collaboration creates an opportunity for engagement between businesses and their customers and levels the playing field for the industry. What was once a capability that only the biggest corporations could afford is now readily available to smaller businesses and even non-profits.

Imagine a non-profit in Detroit that serves inner city children. Using data collaboration, the organisation can collaborate with other charities in the area to come up with actionable insights, such as how to improve fundraising or deliver services more effectively. More importantly, they can do so without sharing sensitive data.

Data collaboration allows for projects to be conducted across geographical, technological, and industrial boundaries. Imagine a property insurer who collaborates with another data-rich organisation on risk assessments and land valuation. The property insurer would be able to identify properties that are at high risk for flooding and if those properties are underinsured. With this knowledge, the insurer can tailor its marketing outreach to address those households.

Think of the healthcare sector. The quality of care provided by hospitals can vary not only from state to state, but within the same locale. Hospitals and other medical services providers could use data collaboration to create insights on how to improve patient care without disclosing their patients' identities.

In 2019, the WEF issued a report that offered suggestions for the role of data collaboration in providing for the public good. The report was the result of a year-long dialogue between governments, civic leaders, businesses, and experts. They focused on how data collection between the private and public sector could be used to address humanitarian and sustainable development issues.

In support of this concept, Dr. Chang–Gyu Hwang, the CEO of KT Corporation, which is Korea's largest integrated telecommunication and media company, stated: "Having experienced the positive impact of public-private data collaboration in improving the epidemic readiness in South Korea myself, I sincerely believe in the promising future that public-private data collaboration will lead us into. I would like to encourage more world leaders and thinkers to join World Economic Forum's effort to make lasting and fundamental changes for humanity with trustworthy data and data collaboration."

Elaborating further, Derek O'Halloran from the Future of Digital Economy and Society explained: "Public-private data collaboration is foundational for building a shared digital future that is more inclusive, trustworthy and sustainable. [Data collaboration] provides pragmatic approaches for using private sector data to deliver faster decision-making during natural disasters, a better understanding for how to be ready for epidemics and new ways to measure progress on achieving the [sustainable development goals]."

Scientific research is another area that can significantly benefit from data collaboration, which makes conducting research more cost-effective and efficient. It’s no surprise that data collaboration is being increasingly employed in scientific research and for developing initiatives such as the Genetics and Epidemiology of Colorectal Cancer Consortium. This consortium gathers data from multiple studies and then collaborates to synthesize the data. As a result, scientists can now gain insights into cancer treatment that individual studies would not be able to provide.

The power of data collaboration

The power that comes from democratising data through data collaboration holds the potential for creating revolutionary change that benefits companies, public institutions, and society as a whole. With increased engagement through collaborative projects and the joining of data resources, new partnerships can be created that bridge organisation, industry, and country, creating value for all.

Tal Golan, Chief Strategy Officer, Verb Technology