Socio-political changes and investments are essential
As Data-Pop Alliance Academic Director Alex “Sandy” Pentland wrote a few weeks ago, “Today there is, for the first time, a real choice,” adding: “The essential factor that led toward democratization was broad ownership of the resource, which made it difficult to exert autocratic control. The same seems true for data: to avoid autocratic control, citizens must have effective, direct control or data about themselves”.
This will both require and spur massive socio-political changes and investments, but it is not out of reach. The technology is there: “It has become technologically possible to set a standard for data stewardship that does not allow even the powerful to subvert data rights except by threat of physical force,” he writes.
Civil societies and communities around the globe – but also some private companies and government agencies – seem to have come to the realization that in the future, people should and will have greater control over how their data are used, both by third parties acting as these “data stewards” and by themselves.
New codes of conduct, ethical principles and legal frameworks will be created. A condition and outcome will be the emergence of data literate citizenries – or rather, literate citizenries in the age of data – individuals and groups with “the desire and ability to constructively engage in society through and about data” (Pentland) – which may include (but not be limited to) writing lines of codes.
Above all, this will require creating deliberative spaces where different perspectives can be openly discussed to find common grounds and avoid unnecessary clashes, backlashes and setbacks on the way to making data work for people.
Towards a human-centered data revolution?
Creating these constructive, interactive and informed spaces is the primary goal of Digitising Europe Initiative 2015 – a European-wide discussion on the digital economy of Europe launched by the Vodafone Institute for Society and Communications in partnership with Data-Pop Alliance.
As part of this initiative, multi-stakeholders’ dialogues will be organized over the next 6 months in major European cities – having started November 2015 in Berlin, then in Brussels, Madrid, and Dublin – to debate what getting the data revolution “right” means and entails. We are hopeful that these events will generate excitement, ideas and connections to contribute to crafting a human-centered data revolution.