Data 2020: Collaboration to solve societal problems

Fri Feb 21, 2020
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Some problems can only be tackled through collective action. But who manages that shared data? Who ensures it’s shared and used in the right way? New data institutions could be an answer.

Data 2020: Collaboration to solve societal problems

Collaboration to solve societal problems is one of the key areas we’ve identified in our Data 2020 landscape review to help organisations understand hot topics in the world of data in 2020 – from digital competition to data rights

Some problems can only be tackled through collective action. For example, some major diseases can only be tackled if scientists, charities and pharmaceutical companies work together. Sharing data can be an essential part of these collaborations. But who manages that data? Who ensures it’s shared and used in the right way? New data institutions could be an answer.

Many sectors could benefit from institutions that steward and provide access to data. Take wildlife conservation for example. In 2019, we explored using a ‘data trust’ – one emerging type of data institution – to enable academics and conservationists to share data with app developers to help tackle international illegal wildlife trade. We found that this approach – where trustees take on a fiduciary duty (a legal responsibility of impartiality, prudence, transparency and loyalty) on behalf of others for how data is shared – could help earn trust. We worked with the Greater London Authority to explore how data trusts could improve city services; and with WRAP to look at how data trusts could help with the mission to reduce global food waste.

But data trusts aren’t the only way to manage access to data. Our own research found that there is huge demand from private, public and third sector organisations in countries around the world to increase sharing of data. Other types of data institution, such as data clubs or data cooperatives, might sometimes be a better fit.

Data institutions can bring together organisations or people to solve specific local or international problems. This would mean less ‘data hugging’ and more cross-sector collaboration.

  • Designing data institutions to suit different challenges and local communities
  • Empowering people through collective data institutions such as data cooperatives or data unions
  • Making data institutions sustainable with appropriate revenue and business models
  • Collaborative approaches to maintaining data as a shared asset
  • Defining good data stewardship practices

This is not an exhaustive list of resources. If you provide tools or resources in this topic, please let us know by emailing [email protected]

  • Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Nesta
  • Open Data Institute
  • The Alan Turing Institute

This is not an exhaustive list of all organisations working in this area. If your organisation is working on this topic and you’d like to be included in this list, please let us know via [email protected]

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