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Building on Data Portability to deliver the big prize: Data Mobility

Posted on: Monday 3rd of December 2018

Individuals’ rights over their personal data, as now established by the GDPR, creates a firm legal basis for personal data portability, and for initiatives to promote economic and societal use of personal data.  However, the GDPR does not create the structures to support secure value generation from data portability.

The vision of Data Mobility goes far beyond data portability as envisaged by the GDPR, enabling personal data to flow safely and efficiently to where it can create maximum value, with personal, social and economic benefits distributed more fairly.

Personal data mobility has the potential to unshackle personal data, and so stimulate new levels of innovation, productivity and competition.

The recent Ctrl-Shift study of Data Mobility estimates the productivity and efficiency gains that could be enabled by personal data mobility at £27.8bn increase in GDP.  Significant though this is, it is likely to be dwarfed by the contribution to GDP that digital innovation enabled by personal data mobility makes.

Personal data mobility has the potential to create better outcomes for individuals and organisations alike.  In so doing it can be a major contributor to the UK economy and society in the 21st century.

Personal data lies at the heart of many of the most promising opportunities for business growth, consumer benefit, and public good in a fast-evolving digital economy.

The recombinant and non-rivalrous characteristics of data (the ability to limitlessly re-combine it and never ‘use it up’, even when used by many parties) strongly distinguish data assets from physical assets in terms of their on-going value generation potential.  Where there is growth in the richness and volume of data this value opportunity is force multiplied.  It follows, therefore that the exponential expansion in personal data driven by the proliferation of personal digital devices, and the Internet of Things, creates an unprecedented value opportunity.

However, there are material barriers to realising the true potential of personal data.

As the data market has grown, organisations have learned to see exclusive access to the personal data they collect as a key strategic asset and source of competitive advantage.  As a result, a high proportion of personal data is locked in organisational silos where only a single organisation can access it – limiting the scope of what the data can be used for, and by whom.

Furthermore, as demonstrated by the recent Cambridge Analytica debacle, there are important systemic issues at the heart of the digital economy.  These include: widespread data breaches; decreased customer trust of how personal data is captured and used; uneven sharing of benefits, and new concentrations of data and market power.

Against this backdrop, there have been numerous initiatives to improve personal data portability – to unlock and simplify safe access to personal data, for its use in diverse applications.

Key initiatives include midata in the UK; PDMS and PIMS globally; Mesinfos in France; PSD2 in the EU, and Blue Button and Green Button in the USA.  Several of these contributed to the development of the GDPR EU and UK legislation which has now enshrined the data portability rights of the individual over their personal data.

This legislation has created a firm legal basis for initiatives to promote economic and societal use of personal data. However, the GDPR only creates a right to data portability, it does not enable it or create the structures to support secure value generation from it.

Furthermore, there are new risks.  In the absence of a safe and secure environment for the sharing of personal data, the new rights that individuals have over their personal data introduce potential hazards for both them and the organisations with which they interact.

The vision for personal data mobility goes far beyond data portability as specified by the GDPR, presenting significant new opportunities.  These opportunities fall into three main categories.  First, recombinant innovation: combining data traditionally held by different parties in new ways can stimulate innovation in both product and service design and in the platforms, technologies and infrastructure to deliver them.  Secondly, productivity and efficiency improvements: enabled by economies of scale and scope in the use of personal data, and where increased sharing by individuals of their data can be used for the benefit of all consumers.  Thirdly, competition and market dynamics: personal data mobility can support healthy and fair markets, with reduced friction that can stimulate competitive innovation, and greater consumer choice.

Data mobility can benefit all parties in the digital economy.  For consumers, groups and communities: critically, decisions regarding the mobility of personal data will be in the hands of the individual.  This empowerment will enable people to gain a greater share of value in tomorrow’s digital economy, both in their engagement with providers and indirect leverage of their own personal data.

For organisations, personal data mobility will open the door to new entrants leveraging recombinant innovation.  Barriers to market entry and risks will be reduced through better insight into consumer behaviours and needs.  Incumbents organisation’s can build new trust-based relationships with empowered consumers, gaining new insights to innovate and improve services and products, and to enhance the effectiveness of marketing and operations.  Personal data mobility will also support closer collaboration between organisations, particularly in building a response to dominant competitors.

The positive competitive effects of data mobility on markets will enable consumers to more easily switch to new products – reducing friction and accelerating adoption.

In the market there are initiatives and emergent solutions that can inform the development of personal data mobility, but none of them approach complete, scalable solutions – there are no quick fixes.

The UK is currently seen as a global leader in data-sharing and usage initiatives, such as Open Data and Open Banking, and in the development of Personal Data Management Services (PDMS), each of which has emergent solutions that contribute to the development of personal data mobility.  We are well-placed to leverage advanced insights, technologies and capabilities.  However, activity in the market is far from coherent and investment is patchy – varying in depth and pace.

The Ctrl-Shift study has, for the first time, codified the core issues that lie at the heart of the complex web of challenges to personal data mobility.  This achieves two key things.  First, the analysis clarifies understanding of the multiple connected risks and consequences of personal data mobility challenges.  Untangling these complex interdependencies clears the path towards a data mobile future.  Secondly, coordinated action on tackling the core issues can form the basis of practical Government and business development agendas for the successful realisation of the big prize of personal data mobility.

David Pickering is a Director at Ctrl-Shift, the business innovation consultancy that specialises in the strategic value of trusted personal data. 

Ctrl-Shift helps organisations realise the unprecedented growth opportunity in personal data by creating strategic, sustainable and practical solutions that deliver new value in peoples’ lives.