Close ☰
Menu ☰

Rethinking Personal Data: an interview with William Hoffman from WEF

Posted on: Monday 19th of August 2013

The World Economic Forum’s Rethinking Personal Data Initiative has reached its third stage. The programme has already defined the value of personal data as an asset class and reinforced the value of trusted data flow. The third stage will bring together data experts with practitioners in different commercial environments so that together they can drive results that are practical, implementable, and can be widely communicated.

Ctrl-Shift has been working closely with WEF on the programme as is a contributor and key member of their international ‘Tiger Team’. This team is looking at how to create and implement the right rules, tools, frameworks and business models to bring about the emergence of a personal data ecosystem where people have greater control over the collection, use, sharing and monetisation of their personal data. A few weeks ago we attended the ‘Rethinking Personal Data: applied insights and actions workshop’ in London.

The focus of the workshop was to discuss how to create a new approach for the use and exchange of personal data. Together with representatives from the UN, The Gates Foundation, the GSMA we discussed the need for a tool that helps non-experts leverage personal data. The framework will ensure the right questions are asked to verify that data is being used in the right context, for the right reasons and under the conditions permitted by the individual. We also outlined a new approach for using personal data that is both context and user-driven.

Following the workshop Ctrl-Shift caught up with William Hoffman, head of data-driven development at WEF, about the programme and its impact on the personal data landscape.

Why do we need a process/framework for assessing compatibility changes?

It’s about clarity.  Achieving balance in the trusted use of personal data is complex, nuanced and in many instances subjective.  There needs to be greater support to help decision makers navigate the ambiguity and shades of grey for using personal data.  This work is designed to help stakeholders frame the questions “What do you want to achieve?” and “How can you achieve those goals in manner which strengthens trust, transparency and the engagement of individuals?  Those issues are at the core of the World Economic Forum’s Rethinking Personal Data initiative.

Who’s going to use the framework?

For this particular phase of our work there are three areas of focus:  disaster preparedness/response, health and international development.  The aim is to share this approach with developers, policy makers and data holders who are focused on using data for the common good.

Who else is involved?

There are a number of institutions involved from business, legal, technical and civil society. These are Fortune 100 technology, financial services and health care firms, leading personal data start ups, senior policy makers, humanitarian organizations, world-class academics and a number of civil society organizations.  It’s a very rich community in terms of its expertise and influence.  In a very real sense, it’s a community of the willing focused on building a user-centered personal data ecosystem.

What are the expected outcomes?

The primary goal is to drive a more efficient dialogue at the highest levels of leadership.  With a more evidence-based and structured dialogue, the hope is to ratchet down some of the noise occurring in the debate.  The uncertainties and anxieties currently shaping the global dialogue are critically important to address.  But we won’t make much progress talking past one another with empty buzzwords and rhetoric based on fear.  With agreed upon nomenclatures and discussion based on clearly identified benefits and risks, the deficit in trust among governments, businesses and individuals can be addressed.

Are there existing examples? If so where?

There are a number of examples where a user-centered, balanced and accountable approach is being applied. There are some very interesting developments in the areas of financial services, genomic research, logistics and personal data stores.  The midata Innovation Lab holds a great deal of promise and is interesting to watch.

What would you like to ask our community?

Stay engaged and keep the faith.  If there is interest in exploring ways that the use of personal data can be utilized to improve disaster preparedness and response please feel free to contact the Forum or visit our website.