Beyond “Mine’s Bigger Than Yours” Datasets

by | Sep 17, 2019 | ICT4D |

Sharing toys as a 3 year old can be challenging. Sometimes sharing is actually giving, when she gives her toy to another child to take home who has come to visit. Sometimes it’s sharing her toys by letting others play with her toys when they visit, but the toys remain when the others leave. The nuances are not always clear to my daughter.

Talking about data is similar. It seems silly to ask about the purpose and the ‘how’ of data sharing as it seems self-explanatory. And yet it is not. We can share data in a way that results in all stakeholders having the same datasets in their system. We can also share data in a way that gives others access to the data we have – everyone remains with different datasets, but can access and ‘see’ all datasets. The third way is for everyone to have their own datasets and have the ability to ‘ask questions’ of another dataset, but not ‘see’ the data, only the answer to the question asked (the Zero Knowledge Proof idea).

Most often the assumption is that data sharing means everyone has the same dataset in the end. Unfortunately, this also results in ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ competitions, assuming bigger is better and more powerful.

Data Trusts do not solve this problem by themselves, but they can help. Data Trusts can simple add another competitor into the mix trying to have the biggest dataset. It will be a slightly different actor as a Data Trust must have very clear objectives about what data it will hold, why, for how long, and who has access, etc. However, Data Trusts also don’t need to hold any data. I realise that statement sounds weird. Data Trust do not need to hold data, they can govern the access to specific data across multiple stakeholders. Data Trusts set and enforces the rules of access.

So all of the options above can happen in a Data Trust. The difference would be there must clarity upfront about the purpose and the ‘how’. Additionally, the trustees of the trust would be legally accountable to the people whose data it is. The Data Trust makes the data sharing more conscious, more visible, more transparent. And by doing so, trust between actors is built.

Photo by Baby Natur


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