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For 2015, remember the economic value of data

Posted on: Monday 22nd of December 2014

Ctrl-Shift would like to wish every Market Watch reader a Happy Christmas and a prosperous healthy New Year.

Here’s a thought as we look forward to 2015.

In 2014, debates about privacy and data protection moved from the margins to centre stage. That’s important and necessary, but these debates also have drawbacks to the degree that they divert attention from the real opportunity with personal data. In 2015 we need to move on to embrace the economic potential of personal data.


Reliabiity and surprise = efficiency and effectiveness

When push comes to shove data is a crucial economic asset because it helps deliver two things: reliability and surprise.

  • Reliable data (that is accurate, up-to-date, complete) enables us to improve, streamline and automate routine processes, thereby driving new efficiencies.
  • Surprises – new information that inform new insights into trends, patterns and possibilities enable better decision making which in turn drives the better allocation of resources – improved effectiveness.

It’s these two aspects of data: reliable data (making processes more efficient) and ‘surprising’ new data (driving better decisions) that makes it so economically important.


The unique role of personal data

Within this, personal data has a unique contribution because it drives better alignment.  Personal data enables personalisation of services. Personalisation is not just about a better experience. It boils down to enabling the provision of exactly the right service, to the right person, at the right time.

That’s important because of what the opposite of this represents: endemic waste of the wrong service, to the wrong person at the wrong time.  In the context of reliability and surprise the real economic value of personal data is its ability to act as a powerful waste reduction engine, enabling people and organisations to focus available resources on what really adds value.


The next information age boom

Trouble is, today’s data economy is dangerously lop-sided. That’s because, currently, only large organisations are able to join and enjoy the data game. Over half the economy – individuals in their roles as home-makers, citizens, consumers/customers and employees – are effectively excluded from participating in the data economy because they don’t have the tools to collect, manage and use their own data. This distorts the economy as a whole and means it can only ever operate at less than half its full potential.

For a parallel, think of the industrial age. In the first phase of the industrial age, the power of the machine was concentrated to remain only in the hands of organisations. Think of the cotton mills where the machine stayed inside the factory, used to drive factories that made basically the same products, such as cotton fabrics, better and cheaper.

This first phase was revolutionary enough. But the second phase was when the boom really happened. That was when the machine evolved from not only being a tool in the hands of the organisation to also become a tool in the hands of customers: when customers acquired and used machines for their own purposes. Think of fridges, vacuum cleaners, cars, televisions, computers and a million other devices that transformed lives and created economic boom in the 20th century.

Our 21st century economy is at a similar tipping point in the information age. The real information age boom will ignite when, via new Personal Information Management Services (PIMS), we make the shift from information solely as a tool in the hands of organisations to information also as tool in the hands of individuals – to enable the benefits of reliability and surprise to spread across the entire economy.

That’s ‘the control shift’.

It’s what Ctrl-Shift is about, and what we’ll spend 2015 pursuing.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!