At an event in Brussels earlier today, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released its report titled, “Data-Driven Innovation: Big Data for Growth and Well-Being.” When this happened, SIIA welcomed the report and its findings.
This report echoes many of the findings of SIIA in its 2013 report on Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) while also going beyond what SIIA already wrote about. According to OECD, its aim is to “improve the evidence base on the role of DDI for promoting growth and well-being, and to provide policy guidance on how to maximize the benefits of DDI and mitigate the associated economic and societal risks.”
OECD provides an excellent analysis of how data analytics improves economies and fosters new products, processes, organizational methods, and markets. It also discusses how data analytics can be used to gain insights and help with decision-making processes.
DDI has seemingly endless economic possibilities since data can be used and reused, challenging the concept that data should only be used once and then discarded. This is not what should be happening which emphasizes one of the critical points OECD makes in this report.
Data is not an exhaustible resource; it is not the “new oil.” Data is our new infrastructure.
As an infrastructure, it can be used by a substantial amount of people and used for numerous purposes. This concept underscores how data minimization policies that artificially “use up” data are dangerous and wasteful. Data has a meaningful impact in various sectors such as health, retail, transportation, science and education, agriculture, and public administration. The full potential of data has yet to be tapped into.
Unfortunately, there is one area where this report is off track. OECD’s report suggests that data should always be free and open. While the report recognizes the “tension” that exists between increasing openness and protecting intellectual property rights (IPR), the overall conclusion that IPR inherently serves as a barrier to DDI is misleading and shortsighted because it ignores the fact that the creation and aggregation of data in a usable form is an expensive, resource-intensive activity. The report calls for the consideration of “data commons” or “open access regimes.” It fails to make the distinction that such regimes can effectively support public and social goods when they are voluntary or based around public data, but that such regimes should not become mandatory or be applied in conflict with IPR.
The report also explores the potential challenges around DDI and equality, and the potential for unintended social or economic side-effects. In this area, the recommendation for consideration of transparency requirements around algorithms is a flawed approach as SIIA has articulated in comments to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, but the report does appropriately recognize that such requirements would be likely to “come into tension with existing proprietary intellectual property rights and the process and algorithms at the core of certain businesses’ operations.”
Public policies surrounding data access need to provide for appropriate incentives for the creation and maintenance of data. As such, SIIA looks forward to working with OECD in all their efforts on DDI in the future.