Viewed 206 times | Published on 2020-01-08 10:26:01
Whenever reading something about digital transformation, I usually end up being surprised at how those advocating digital transformation seem so often focused first on intellectual property protection, then on transformation per se.
Even more quixotic, often focus just on the former, while knowing that to achieve the latter a "grassroot participation" is needed, and somehow make a quantum leap that skips a critical juncture: motivation.
In this post will share examples about Italy (where I re-registered in 2012) and Turin (where I worked and lived on a daily basis from 2015 until 2018), as my experience working and living around Italy having one location as a reference point was mainly in the 1980s and 1990s.
First, I will "disassemble" the title.
Reading the title
This is just a kind of "shared lingo" introduction- hence, the dictionary form:
- the concept is simple: interactions generate information, information that is then visible; obviously, there are various levels of confidentiality, rules of access, etc- but the concept is that a society overall will benefit from turning at least the workings of bureaucracies (public and private) into a "glass house", to ensure that rules applies to everybody, and an "audit trail" (tracking of the lifecycle of transactions to enable ex-post checking that their did not bend the rules) is available and accessible
- digital transformation
- it isn't just about using computers, technologies (ranging from sensors to telecommunications and mobility devices), but about redesigning activities to integrate, systemically, each and every component (human, machine, ecosystem) within a continuum where interactions are smooth and can evolve based upon the data that such interactions generate; and this implies that, once a society is "digitally transformed", probably what there will be a continuous redefinition of what means to be "socially acceptable"
- it is a generic concept, but in my view (and this is my perception) it is actually closely associated to the previous two; when you have transparency and digital transformation is carried out, anybody and anything interacting systemically could "coalesce" into new, unplanned, and unexpected forms, further influencing also what had been ordinary until then
- common good
- all the three previous elements rely on the actual "emergence of common good": we are used to a "common good" defined as "status quo", but the previous elements do, again, imply that the concept of "common good" has to be the result of a convergence of interests, convergence that will evolve across time and thanks to informed interactions, not just mob rule (as often the "common good" was meant in the past)
- age of consent
- I actually posted few articles and published a book on the concept, you can visit the page on GDPR to read more about it, but the concept is simple: if you are to "feed" transparency, you have also to be explicit about the uses that you authorize for the data you disclose or share- this is "consent"; extending consent by, e.g. using data collected for statistical purposes to generate revenue, requires a confirmation (and that is the spirit of GDPR).
Thinking about today, dreaming about tomorrow
Now, I do not necessarily agree with those going to the other extreme, i.e. assuming that each contribution should carry a direct economic value.
E.g. when generating data by simply going around, the actual value of that data is often not really even in aggregates (i.e. thousands of people interacting millions of times), but "by emergence": the presence of the data aggregate, after a while, generates unexpected ways to extract/generate value.
The reason why I disagree, for the time being, with making up what my French colleagues in Paris in the late 1990s would have called an "usine à gaz" (over-engineered, in this case data processing and "author tagging")?
For now, most of the data resulting from such interactions would be at the "Edge", i.e. staying locally, and being exchanged locally.
As also shuttling data around to a central server, e.g. videos, would generate too much irrelevant traffic.
I am equally skeptical of those proposing to create giant "data lakes" where to dump all the data- as that is nice if you are selling e.g. shared services to build such "data dumps" (the real use of many data lakes- go fishing for value, in those lakes), but generally a business doesn't store data "just in case", and strives to optimize, not to maximize, costs.
Yes, I wrote about those possibilities in the past- but talking about the future.
For the time being, it is worth considering being more pragmatic.
And pragmatism, in this case, is to generate enablers for that "emergence".
Consider that currently the rate of obsolescence of operational knowledge is much higher than just a century ago.
I hail from country, Italy, that until not too long ago was used to have operational knowledge transferred from father to son (as women were often excluded from decision-making roles).
We are still struggling with accepting the changes of post-WWII technology, and we are a couple of decades behind the non-opportunistic use of e.g. mobile technology.
Moving ahead, one step at a time
Should I share and paraphrase the usual "a one thousand miles journey starts with the first step"?
Why not- better than some "trendy" mumbo-jumbo repleted with buzzwords.
I wrote here and there about open data, and this post is focused on its role within our social transformation.
As you can understand from the previous section, by inclination and (lifelong, business and non-business) experience I am pragmatic: optimal solutions might imply infinite costs, so a sub-optimal solution that requires a reasonable cost is preferable as a starting point.
My concept of the future is frankly nothing so complex, but it is worth repeating.
If you accept that technology is evolving faster than our social ability to adapt thousands of "layered" culture, you have to accept that there is a lack of timesync.
Hence, some offer to "delay technology"- which is akin to "hiding science": do it only when everybody complies, and probably somebody who doesn't comply will up the ante and fulfill the need immediately.
Actually, the latter might be an appealing proposition for somebody from the former using the latter as a "shield of plausible deniability" to test the waters, and then offer to do it "the proper way", after having tested the boundaries of what is socially acceptable.
I am not advocating a "free for all": instead, I think that we should always consider what I saw in practice in small and large cultural change within organizations, and criticized often in attempts at social engineering.
Common good: now
The reason why I criticize our obsession with IPR protection is that often this is used as a way to "set up placeholders" and create artificial barriers to entry.
I wrote in the past few times about the puzzling XIX-ish practices of some patent offices that are simply flooded by patent applications generated by "patent farms" at the tune of thousands of pages per application, knowing that this would exceed the time allocated to the activity.
So, the current system is often an incentive, on "knowledge boundaries", to set up a "fence", so that any real future innovation roughly in that area could turn into a choice between the lesser of two evils: paying a license fee for something vague, or go into litigation.
Akin to claiming ownership of the Moon.
The concept of "common good" is something that, in my case, I think that it is closer to some of the "Creative Commons" elements.
I will give you a personal, recent example.
While updating my number-crunching abilities, and reading some material on machine learning and following the "lingo course" on AI, as well as the "Trustworthy AI" course from SAP using the EU and other frameworks on ethical AI, as well as other courses and material on the same subjects, I found that often cases and tools and methods on "teaching machines" were actually akin to those who coach new employees the current operational approach without disclosing "why".
So, while the "coach" knows the "why", the "next generation" (those receiving the coaching) gets only the "how".
Then, they are supposed to evolve it without knowing past logic that might be now redundant, or the degrees of freedom and weaknesses embedded in (and circumvented by) current processes.
It is "programmed decay" dressed up as "knowledge transfer" and "business continuity".
And, in Italy, this is often part of a national cultural fear of being "sidelined" by those that you train (in other countries, this is limited to some professions- in Italy, I saw it more often than abroad).
Again: programmed decay, as each generation assumes that the next can be controlled by removing the "why" and giving just the "how"- ending up in removing the ability to evolve without disrupting for the disrupting sake (in Italy, this results in a focus on "extraordinary measures" instead of "ordinary maintenance").
Many machine learning examples I have been presented by others basically are "replicants": there is no learning whatsoever, just pattern matching on extended patterns.
A visual example might help.
Look at the following painting by Escher, as a whole.
Yes, to know how it ends you need to know also the boundaries- or at least enough "creativity" to understand that transition.
But if you need to replicate the central part, you just need the tedious central pattern and its progression curve, so that you can know when to start and when to end, whenever asked to say if it is similar.
I think that our IPR obsession results in pointless new lingo, or reinventing the wheel where your resources would be better focused on "leveraging".
Example: applying the same method, while reading the above mentioned material, I remembered something about Gauss. As I wrote in my review of a book on Gauss that I picked up in a newsstand (just because I had "Gauss in my mind"), I saw a match within the discussion on how he solved the issue of the orbit of Ceres.
What I did not write within the review is simple: yes, I had that "hunch", but then said to myself: "instead of reinventing the wheel, look if others did the same".
And, of course, there are some who worked on that same path, instead of doing the one-to-one of other machine learning solutions.
I will review that material later to see if it matches the ideas that I was planning to investigate and apply to some cases for my purposes (business number crunching), but for the time being, in my "decision tree" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decision_tree, that "branch" is covered, so that I can focus my limited resources (time) to other elements of my quest.
Now, I consider that those that created that website http://www.gaussianprocess.org/ actually contributed to a "common good".
Ditto those who created, within the same area (number crunching) the R platforms and, based upon that framework, those who contributed thousands of packages.
Common good: the missing element
Anybody who goes around with a smartphone is actually a continuous broadcaster of data.
As I will write in a forthcoming book within the connecting the dots series, we are already within a domain fairly different from the one I wrote about in 2014, the Bring Your Own Device https://robertolofaro.com/byod, i.e. using your own smartphone, tablet, etc. for business purposes (and ensuing consequences).
Many companies solved the issue by simply denying that use, providing a corporate device to employees, and then setting strict usage (and tracking) rules.
Some companies, like those using "riders" to deliver food actually did violate not just GDPR, but also a wide range of data protection rules for employees, in their own obsession with number crunching and performance measurement while avoiding or minimizing fixed costs.
In reality, what now is done and described in the previou section, in the end, is done by either professionals or "professionalized amateurs" (i.e. those need to do it to support their own activity, and learn enough to do so, and avoid having to involve professionals that have a "narrow niche" approach).
New opportunities will open in the future to those who will move from the mere "would you like to be our beta-tester", or "would you like to share your data", or the old "share your feed-back", shifting toward "continuous adjusted feed-back".
Continuous adjusted feed-back
Whenever I am asked to provide feed-back, I see that as a strait-jacket.
Run-of-the-mill questions expecting run-of-the-mill answers.
Instead, we already have the technologies in place to it the other way around: you want my feed-back, I can give it and expand, and you extract both the "standard" and the "additional", instead of missing the opportunity to... listen to contextualized feed-back.
Look at this famous chart about the speed and density of technology adoption.
Now think a moment about say, your TV set and your smartphone.
The further back in time you go, the more probable that you received plenty of manuals, documentation, etc.
With a smartphone, even more so with an app on your smartphone, you do not expect to receive a "user manual", or often even convoluted "help functions".
It all should be intuitive, a kind of install-use-getresults-expanduse routine.
If technologies evolve fast, chances are that you will be expected to "layer" on prior technologies (e.g. the users of games often are expected to use "intuitively" what maybe in their first interaction with a gaming console required some time to get used to).
And your "adjusted feed-back" is what you expect from any application: how annoying when an application keeps asking the same silly questions as if did not know how to move across its options- shouldn't it be a tad... smarter?
What will happen in the future across all the customer base is that you will probably not know, but different "subsegments" of your customers will have a different combination of apps or social context that will imply that their use of your application and data derived from or provided by the application will be radically different.
Therefore, probably something that now is "proprietary" (e.g. the format of your data stored on their smartphone) might eventually make sense to be more... open.
Open data and "transparency by default"
I wrote recently a personal post on new year propositions.
It is 13 A4-pages long, as it mixes personal history, local socio-political (which includes business, in my view) analysis, etc.
I will spare your time- this is the bit about organizational change in Italy
Digression: Italians and the bureaucracy of innovation
In Italy, whenever there is a crisis, the attitude is still the same of a giant bureaucracy.
Crisis? Create a special entity, and put on top somebody that we can control and trust (a higher-level member of the tribe).
Then, on the managerial layers below, get people that we can trust- the lower you go, the farther away from the "trust circle".
Where do you find them? Mmmh... Italy has plenty of smaller and micro-companies with people with high resounding titles, sometimes, as I saw around Italy, just dumped on a small company to "build up CV" and justify a further appointment one ring up the ladder in the next opportunity.
With a caveat: as I shared by number crunching data from the National Statistical Office (ISTAT), the average size of the each operational unit in Italy is tiny by any standard, also if most commentators focus on the already small size of Italian companies (in some areas, over 90% are below 10 Full-Time Equivalents, FTEs henceforth).
Collateral damage: if you create a typical "aggregated structure" with hundreds of employees acting as a service and coaching provider to help small companies grow, where do you find those able to manage the resulting processes, if the "breeding ground" of larger companies is basically missing?
Moreover, even if you drop few redundant managers from the few larger companies that maybe delocalized (moved to other countries), how will they communicate and coach companies that will start but never go beyond the half dozen to few dozens million EUR in turnover, with between five and few hundred employees overall, scattered across an array of smaller operational units).
Which "lingua franca" will they use?
Obviously, you can see the potential side-effects: more boxes filled up with "sinecure types" (an Italian specialty is "beached politicians" ) do not solve issues- consume funds.
And making rules that require to use those "boxes" if you want to access funding results in another twist.
As I saw in the early 2000s, the local attitude to matching private and public (or EU) funds isn't: let's do something we would like to do, corral the resources we can to make it viable and sustainable as a business plan, then see which additional lines make sense thanks to the risk-sharing "matching funds" (I put in 100, the State puts in 100, and maybe EU will put in 100).
No, the ideas is to do a plan, preferably the "business canvas" type to avoid having to waste time with details such as having numbers that make sense- we are a creative country, aren't we?
Then, prepare enough numbers based upon the assumption that we create the activity only if the funding arrives. All of it.
Seen from abroad: if without the matching funds the structure does not even start, it means that it wasn't sustainable "per se", it was created to absorb funding.
Otherwise, it would start, and then add/remove lines according to what, based upon the "groundwork" could be further "value added".
Unfortunately, since the early 2000s I saw this extending from start-up founders who used it as a kind of XXI century version of those peddling oil snake, up, and up, and up- until the concept of doing a business because there is a business, or folding it, disappeared.
Over the last couple of years, all around Italy I heard and read material and speeches stating that we need to use more our share of European Union funds, as we are routinely way beyond (and sadly https://ec.europa.eu/anti-fraud/in...we are over-represented in "success stories" by the Anti-Fraud EU entity, OLAF).
The concept shouldn't be- "we aren't getting enough of our share of funding", but "why?".
Restructuring entities and organizations so that they are geared toward producing formally perfect documentation might work for a short while: but when the impact of that funding will be below the expected, no amount of formal compliance will imply approvals.
Currently, "open data" is associated mainly with local, national, and supra-national authorities.
Anyway, if you visit the associated websites, you can see how "open" had different concepts for different organizations.
Statistical "open data" often make no sense whatsoever unless you are "on their side of the fence", i.e. you work for a statistically-minded organization.
Extracting information from that data requires so much "contextual information" that defines the "semantic" (beside the formal metadata), that that open data is actually closer to a "data dump".
Other information is apparently more open, e.e. the dataset released in October 2019 by the European Central Bank containing all the speeches since 1997, one of the last actions on transparency from the Mario Draghi tenure.
But, unfortunately, there are two elements to consider: first, if you search something, it is across the line, otherwise, it is just a speech-by-speech (I did an experiment at providing that "across the line", have a look).
Second, and probably more important, you need a culture of transparency that requires "disclosure by design", to paraphrase https://gdpr-info.eu/art-25-gdpr/.
In October 2019 the ECB website announced that the dataset was to be updated in late December (that update notice is not there anymore), so I simply extracted the speeches each week from the website, and updated my "search tool".
Meanwhile, there was a change in management (Mario Draghi was successed by Christine Lagarde) and, despite hearing on the news, or reading in newspapers, about speeches and reports from ECB Board Members... no speeches have been published since 2019-12-18 (and the dataset has not been released).
It is true that probably many do not read the speeches- but, frankly, the point is that not just the ECB, any "public" organization should reconsider XIX approaches to confidentiality, and understand what needs to be disclosed.
On that count, I remember an early 2000s work I did for a customer who asked to receive a proposal on governance based on Sarbanes Oxley, Italian national rules, and whatever I considered worth in the mix.
It was an organizational proposal, and therefore consider an element associated with "social responsibility" (now would be "sustainability"), i.e. the "Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises" from OECD.
Already in the late 1990s, OECD was pushing and suggesting for e-government, and that initially meant just "do online what can be done online, cutting down on time and costs", but with open data this could be extended.
Extended to "transparency by default": unless there is a reason to keep it confidential, if it is delivered in a public event, on media, etc, as in SOX anything that might affect markets and citizens should be disclosed, by each organization, within a specific section of its website.
It is, in the end, an extension of the concept of "Integrated Reporting" that has been proposed to go past the mere "Corporate Social Responsability" or "Sustainability Report" as an "addendum" to the "real" financial report.
In the future, probably citizens will expect a continuous disclosure, such as the annual disclosure shown in a recent Chinese movie, where a mayor had to present to citizens (and answer their questions) on how he had used their money.
Digression: transparency and trust in a data-centric economy, the Italian case
Italy is gradually transitioning toward a data-centric economy, starting from the State and local bureaucracy, e.g. by demanding that most interactions with the bureaucracy are done via electronic means, and collecting an increasing amount of data, including de facto behavioral data.
There is a fly within the ointment: while living in other countries within the European Union, I do not remember seeing as often as I did in Italy since re-registering in 2012, and from news while living in London and Brussels, something that seems to be closely linked to the "tribal" paradigm of the Italian social structure.
More than once, those supposed to be "guardians" of the data-centric side of bureaucracy were apprehended or under investigation for crimes ranging from selling phone wiretaps recordings, to accessing and sharing personal and financial data.
Personally, in my business activities, I saw the side-effect in 1987-1988 in Verona and then in 2008 nearby Brussels: the same person that was blatantly from an official background, first to cross-check on a banking software company based in Verona, belonging to an American group, and whose American management was from military background, then to monitor on logistics activities in Europe at an American-German company, but with the same attitude.
Difference: in 1987-1988, at most could damage software (as was there officially as a developer- I remember a curious cameo from a manager as I used two hands on the keyboard as I wasn monitoring the transition into production of parts of a general ledger, while she was almost scared from the keyboard and using just few fingers from one hand :D).
In 2008, twenty years of career had maximized the damage potential: imagine if somebody in Brussels, but from your own country and blatantly another role, contributes in spinning around rumours about your excessive knowledge in logistics, for somebody with a banking CV (I had been asked a banking CV, I removed the other experiences and provided a banking CV- little I knew that I would be sent to a logistics company, and the recruiter would lie stating that we had worked together for a long time, as it was later revealed).
A mess- I keep tallying the missed income, as a reminder before I am tempted to accept yet another discounted offer to work in the public sector in Italy, as I did for Rome in 2004-2006 (back then, cut my rate by over 50% and worked part-time as PM/BA just to be within the allocated budget for few public sector projects that I considered worth doing for my country- ending up even to actually pay to work, as I covered costs to stay in Rome, but worked for free to ensure continuity for a while, eventually surrendering).
So, I saw first-hand first in Italy (also in Rome), then abroad (there were a couple of inquisitive curious Italian characters in Brussels always hovering around pubs and cafés in Schuman and joining, uninvited, discussions with foreigners, with a preference for those working at NATO or the European Commission, one from Sicily, one from Naples), then again in Italy since my re-registration in 2012.
Trouble is: in Italy, usually these issues are solved by your own "tribe"- in my case, as other Italians who lived and worked abroad, I have no tribal allegiance (actually, worked often as a "bridge" between tribes also... while in high-school: so, it is a lifelong hazard :D)
My lesson is: stay clear or stay close- for the time being, there is no other way to deal with Italy, if you are an Italian.
Asking for transparency and as-close-as-possible-to-the-event tax reporting is of critical importance in Italy, due to organized crime impact on the economy (including the legal economy and bureaucracy).
We have the Italian equivalent of the USA RICO, in Italy roughly represented by the "reati associativi" and other mafia-related elements of the Penal Code, but its application is somewhat quixotic.
In my perception of reality (but I am a foreigner in Italy, hence...), if it looks like that, smells like that, behaves like that- it is that.
In Italy, we had contrasting results in recent and old trials, sometimes acknowledging the "reati mafiosi", sometimes not, generating a confusion that was perceived as entitlement to the adoption of distorted behavior until further notice.
Hence, while I had from March 2018 until December 2018 an activity in Italy, I was glad to have found that, as I was used abroad, could file quarterly date about my company costs and revenue: I have nothing to hide, and I was self-funding my kick-starting for a contract that was supposed to start soon (disappeared) with proceeds from my previous job in Italy.
Hèlas, as I wrote in the post linked above (the one I extracted the previous digression from), I close it down after 9 months, as I had just costs (and reported only costs specifically for consumables and services for the activity, not my own costs or mixed costs, such as mobile, rent for home office, etc, as would be normal in UK or USA, as it would be pointless and a bureaucratic quagmire).
A still missing element is the possibility to click on a button and say "compute the annual returns as I have nothing to deduct and I already gave you all the data".
The funnier part? My costs generated a loss, but I will not be able to claim it as... I closed the activity- while instead I am still liable (and paying) for social contributions on income I did not have.
I wonder what will happen with the (minimal) VAT credit that I matured- but my experience since 2012 in Italy with tax and utilities credits is laughable, you end up being tired and bored.
If you compound issues as routine unauthorized data disclosures from "guardians", and unbalanced rights and duties, as well as the "tribal" partition of society that trumps "common good", it is difficult to imagine a willingness to become active citizens: and, after declining in growth and industrialization over the last couple of decades, Italy risks missing another opportunity.
As I repeated often, the structure of the current Italian manufacturing (mainly small and medium companies, even "pocket multinationals" are expatriating to expand) could deliver the level of flexibility required for the forthcoming continuous re-assessements in manufacturing that are to be expected in the XXI century, and their blend of products-data-services, with appropriate pooling of the "knowledge supply chain maintenance and development", also to cover for the lack of development of managerial and governance capabilities.
It is not a matter of outlining a plan, or even allocating resources and people: as it happened over a decade ago for the "tourism portal of Italy", it doesn't matter if you create the software and support infrastructure to deliver a service, if those providing the content to deliver the value-added are unwilling or unable to participate.
I know that it is funny, as if you look at my CV on robertolofaro.com/cv you will see plenty of information technology projects.
But probably it is due to my activities in politics prior to my first paid activity in ICT, and also the lessons learned in the administrative side of the Army.
Technology is an enabler, but we aren't machines: if the culture of the ecosystem involved is generating antibodies against the enablers, no amount of enablers will generate the expected results.
Hence, in any project, moreover when, as since 1990, I was there explicitly as change or project or programme manager, my first steps were an assessment along with the request to identify (if not yet identified) who will take over the results- by it a system, a process, an organization, or even just generating "goodwill".
Because delivery is just part of the picture, thinking systemically implies also considering long-term, "organic" sustainability.
I am always skeptical of benefits that require a constant injection of external guardians, alien to the day-by-day, to be sustainable: sound more like a temporary addedendum that turns into a permanent bureaucracy (which, incidentally, it is a common issue in Italy).
Now, transparency and trust should be bilateral, if a data-centric economy implies expanding the data you provide, so that e.g. policy can be more finely tuned toward needs, needs that will evolve.
And, frankly, in my daily life in Turin 2015-2018 (I think that it has been decades since I lived so long in a single town and never travelled for work), I saw since the beginning how the "social contract" had deteriorated, if compared with what I remembered from the 1980s, the last time when I lived full-time in Turin (well, at the time, I was actually travelling during the week more often than not, but still I was living in town).
At the same time, another element of data-centric societies is that of consent, as outlined within the "dictionary introduction" of this post.
I will be explicit, as in Italy since 2015 collected plenty of examples.
The concept is simple: if we will extend data provision also to private parties, to enable the creation of open data also in the private sector, there too we will need to track consent.
If I, say, sign up with an utility for a supply of gas or electricity, that does not imply that I want to be pestered by calls from salesrep of other companies.
Moreover, when I close down that supply, I do not want for over one year to keep receiving calls from salesreps trying to sell me contracts to provide gas or electricity at an apartment I have no access to anymore.
On another type of utility, telcos, if I sign up for a telephone service, it might make sense when I am offered services from the provider (e.g. mobile payments), but what about... hair dryer, olive oil, linen?
Also, as GDPR would require prior consent, what is the point to have to call each operator to say that you do not want to be sent messages offering (activating, actually) weekly payments for "value-added services"?
But those two examples could be easily solved.
Now, there are other cases that I was been told about recently that instead seem to be a side-effect of a mis-interpretation of GDPR.
Within GDPR, you have rights to access, amend, remove your data.
In some cases, there is a possibility of a "reasonable cost".
Now, when you are required by law to provide data, e.g. for risk monitoring within banking, your "consent" is limited to risk monitoring, not to be on the receiving end of services based upon those data.
Instead, routinely, I and others keep receiving offers from financial management companies (initially based in Italy, now in Italian but with either foreign numbers or numbers in Italy re-routed abroad) that apparently have access to your information.
Also, developing services based upon those data, and then offering services such as "benchmarking" to private citizens is a violation of the initial consent that was implicit within the regulatory compulsion to provide data.
GDPR stipulates that each consent should be explicit, but since June 2018 routinely saw in Italy forms that were pre-filled (both online and after being printed).
Eventually, you stop bothering- as I did already in 2018 when I closed down my activity in Turin, due to continuous offers only to work for free, an encore of previous offers (in Turin and Rome) to work for "future goodwill".
A data-centric economy requires a continuous, voluntary contributions not just of data, but also of suggestions on how to use and integrate those data, as knowledge about interconnections between data and behaviors is at the contributor side, not at the collecting side.
And this requires a complete overhaul of the culture: otherwise, you will end up hearing what I heard more than once locally, i.e. start-ups founded by those in their 20s or 30s, but who had a distorted, XIX century perception of the roles within the future of a market economy.
Amazon, Apple, Google delivered value and built (shakingly) trust before they started empire-building on data: and they too need anyway to co-opt consumers to evolve their products, despite having already massive amounts of data (and plenty of willing contributors).
Open data and business interactions
Now, from the previous discussion, you probably understand where I am leading to.
My concept is simple: in the future, it is not just the "shrinking down of local, State, supranational authorities" that will require more active engagement of all the citizens (private and corporate).
It will be the actual types of continuously restructuring interactions between unplanned and "emergent" technologies, and their mutual interactions, that will affect the mix of skills, abilities, data that will be needed.
When I hear of companies looking at the trend of current job postings on the web in terms of skills, as a guideline for the kind of people that they will need to hire for the next decade... well, it sounds to me as something that might work for some roles, but not for others.
And, in some industries, it might not work- at all.
How many expected that companies would hire or contract Instagram "influencers"... a decade ago?
So, while "testing the ground" of the interaction between "data collector" (public authorities, for now) and "data providers and consumers" (private and corporate citizens) to define general guidelines, this could actually become a reference model to consider a legal framework for future interactions.
Nowadays, States are asking more and more data from businesses- as I wrote few years ago, once all the data are digital, and all the transactions are digital, it will make sense to have a continuous stream, and continuous reporting (Italy is heading toward the first part, and all the EU countries, with e-invoicing, eventually will converge on that).
What is puzzling is how citizens are complaining when the State is asking for more data, but then do not complain when the like of Apple or Google collect anything they do with their mobile devices, up to the information that devices such as "fitness bracelets" report- and sell them.
It is a matter of perception of value- something politicians and bureaucracies have to work on.
Emergence of common good
When businesses too will start jumping for real on the "Open Data" bandwagon, this will change both the relationship with their customers, and the concept of "supply chain".
Currently it has been already used by some with their suppliers (on a continuous mode- before, EDI already introduced data sharing along the supply chain decades ago, but with a different approach).
If interactions and data exchanges will be many-to-many, gradually product and service monitoring and evolution will change.
Already some companies integrate their customers within their own "feed-back" or "support" systems, as it has been done for a while by e.g. the Open Source software development community, and others (an evolution of past "Special Interest Groups", expanded from the local to the global level thanks to Internet).
Expanding gradually will enable the emergence of the common good by consensus, i.e. will affect also the concept of IPR.
If enough customers across enough suppliers will suggest the same, who will be the "owner of the IPR"? If it is the aggregate the makes "emerge" the overall contribution that influences product and service designs, can you say that this "crowdsourcing" results in a "common good by consensus"?
And how should the "governance" (ranging from patent offices to WTO and other supranational entities) evolve?
Will jurisdictions still have a meaning? Or will we have more cases of "universal jurisdiction", eventually turning toward a "universal jurisdiction by default"?
Actually, part of our current regulations are already de facto evolving toward that direction- from anti-money laundering, to sex trafficking and slavery, to risk management, to the humble GDPR- they might be initiated somewhere, but then are mimicked or generate "parallel evolutions" across multiple jurisdictions.
Probably, adopting a concept coming from other industries, we will talk about "sentiment analysis" not just as it is done now (to manipulate or offer), but to "design by emerging consensus".
What we will see is therefore a two-faced evolution: a phase-in of "common good sentiment" that will require a phase-out of "confidentiality by default".
And it will all start by ensuring that transparency isn't just done by dumping data on the masses, or misused by bureaucracies, but by enabling to "layer" skills and knowledge, so that more will be able to contribute.
E.g. a genius data scientist might be able to produce innovative data representations and pattern identifications that would be appreciated by fellow data scientists as a stroke of genius.
But unless that makes data accessible to those who will instead have the background or experience required able to see in those data something different, and maybe just ask question or suggest changes, it will be as Open Data is often now: by those in the known for those in the known- a long way from being able to have others see if the data show something that they did not expect about themselves and their interactions, as businesses or as social groups.
A long journey starts with a first step- so, why not start with those currently producing Open Data finding ways to make data accessible to citizens (private and corporate) who could actually provide insight?
Maybe we will discover that more data are collected than needed, or that some critical data points that influence policy (in the future- corporate strategies) are actually a distorted perception of what happens in reality.
Obviously, this is just a first post sharing few doubts.