Phenomenal quantities of valuable data are now being collected and created by UK businesses but we are really rubbish at using and sharing it, says a new report from researchers at Imperial College London.
This is mostly down to the fear of data leaks and of losing control, which leads to companies hoarding data rather than sharing or trading it openly and transparently or turning it into profitable information-based products and services as 'big data'
Over the last two years the researchers worked closely with organisations such as the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Ofcom, IBM and the BBC and found that, on average, data-based capital contributed just 0.015 per cent to UK GDP each year over the period studied by the team, even though investment in data-based assets in the UK reached US$7 billion in 2013 -- which equates to around 40 per cent of the amount invested in R&D.
Turning data into a widely traded, growth-boosting commodity similar to oil, for example, would require a clearer regulatory framework and low-cost trading mechanisms enabling data to be exchanged in vibrant digital market-places without sensitive information about its originators being revealed.
"The world is increasingly awash with data and the key objective must be to ensure that it can be turned into growth, prosperity and jobs. Currently, however, data is still at the very early stages of commercialisation. It can't really be legally owned and that makes companies very protective and secretive where their data assets are concerned. Moreover, even anonymised data can be collated to reveal sensitive information about the organisations where it originates," said Professor Aija Leiponen, Associate Professor at Imperial College Business School who led the work.
"What's needed is the development of new trading technologies -- technologies like the emerging 'blockchains' that incorporate protection against tampering or unauthorised use and could potentially enable anonymous trading of relatively high-value data assets. Alternatively, data assets can be commercialised as part of other digital products and services, though this can require significant R&D. However, data is unlikely ever to become formal intellectual property in the same way as patented inventions or copyrighted content are.