Positive Limitation

by | Sep 7, 2019 | ICT4D, Ideas |

Most of us think limitations are to be overcome, are negative, hold us back. But what if they were positive?  What if by limiting ourselves, we gain more trust and freedom.

As part of protection as well as providing freedom, many parents put fences around their gardens/backyards and then allow their children to roam free within it.  It enables parents to feel some sense of security that their children are safe, while at the same time enabling children to have freedom to do as they wish within a certain framework.  

In our digital world, freedom is highly prized; and yet we also want or expect organisations to handle data in a certain way.  And in our digital work, social organisations often struggle with how to share data as there is the question of ownership, liability, and power. There also can be the lack of trust between organisations.   

So what would happen if we could put a ‘fence’ around certain types of data so that all organisations who were working with the individuals could access and use the data. And what if the people who the data is about could also access it and have a say about how it is used?  The so called ‘fence’ would stipulate how the data could be used as well as who has access to it.  And what if this space, wasn’t owned by a single entity, but was ‘owned’ by everyone?  

At its most basic, this is the idea of a trust.  A data trust.  Trusts are about limitations; limitations that enable positive things to happen.  By putting data into a trust and being extremely clear about how it can be used, by whom, and for what purpose, we put significant limitation around the dataset, but this limitation is the foundation of trust between all who use the data and those about whom the data is. 

Sean McDonald at Digital Public is leading the way in thinking about how we can use the concept of a trust in the digital space for public good.  

Photo by Quaid Lagan

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