April 23, 2014
Rebalancing Socioeconomic Asymmetry in a Data-Driven Economy
By Peter Haynes
|In a paper published today in the World Economic Forum's Global Information Technology Report 2014, Strategic Foresight Initiative Nonresident Senior Fellow Peter Haynes and Microsoft Director of Technology Policy M-H. Carolyn Nguyen argue that growing socioeconomic asymmetries must be rebalanced for a data-driven economy to thrive.|
If a truly sustainable data-driven economy is to be established, the way in which data are traded between individuals and corporations requires a major reset. For such an economy to succeed, individuals would have to receive fair monetary compensation for each specific datum they provide, perhaps with additional payments whenever that datum produced incremental profits for the entity to which it has been passed. Such systems would be complex, but are essential to (re)establish the concept of fair value exchange in a world dominated by data, big or little.
We believe that a key element to enable fair value exchange and individual trust in such a system is an interoperable metadata-based software architecture. In such an architecture, data are logically accompanied by a “metadata tag” that contains references to the permissions and policies associated with the data, along with related provenance information. It can also be used to track and capture the monetary value produced by the data, providing a foundation for both fair value exchange and greater trust. The metadata is logically bound to the data and cannot legally be unbound or modified for the entire data lifecycle by any parties other than the user.
A metadata-based architecture offers value to all stakeholders in a data-driven economy, not only to individuals. For example, data-consuming entities can more easily understand and comply with the permissions and policies defined for specific data. They can also establish a dynamic, economically viable and sustainable “marketplace” in data that would ideally mirror the way in which fair value exchange is established in the physical world. And regulators can take advantage of greatly improved auditability of data, along with a stronger and better-defined connection between the data and those policies that govern its use.
There are numerous challenges here—among them social, technological, and regulatory—and today we have many more questions than answers. But the data-driven economy will be unable to realize its potential unless those answers are found.
Peter Haynes is a nonresident senior fellow with the Strategic Foresight Initiative.