Last month, Orange Silicon Valley, Facebook, and Future Agenda collaborated to put on the Oct. 30 Future Value of Data workshop. Hosted by OSV in our San Francisco event space, this workshop brought together senior leaders in data to explore and share views of the key regional and global changes on the horizon in the important and evolving field.
The Future Value of Data has already engaged with experts in 25 countries around the world including many across Europe, Asia, and Africa. The San Francisco event kicked off a final set of workshops throughout the Americas building a rich, informed view of how and why change is occurring. It was the 23rd of 30 events in the series being hosted around the world. With the use of data accelerating in and around many sectors, participants explored emerging technological, social, business model, and regulatory shifts.
“Data, and more importantly what we do with it, is at the heart of the digital transformation we are seeing in the cities and communities we live in,” said Will Barkis, Principal, Smart Cities at Orange Silicon Valley. “So we were excited to host this thoughtful and wide-ranging conversation around data, data governance, privacy, ethics, and more with Facebook and other private and public sector leaders. It is going to take the whole community to help data attain its full value for everyone, and these conversations are critical in building the relationships needed to strengthen our communities.”
The workshop was highly participatory and facilitated in a structured, design-thinking style method by Future Agenda. The organizers started by questioning participants about the basic notion of “value” before asking participants to examine the evolution of data and explore possible areas in which data could affect the future. Participants were asked to reflect on long-term impacts, and predict how data and its uses could impact society in a decade. They shared views on the key shifts driving the value of data over the next 10 years, and they reached a consensus that data has a general power, with an impact on individuals, organizations, and the government.
In the afternoon, participants chose four topics for deeper exploration, selected because they were judged to be areas of greatest change and potential impact in the next decade. Not surprisingly, these four topics have varied across geographic locations and participants’ choices in all of the Future Value of Data workshops. For the San Francisco workshop the final four selections were:
• digital literacy
• how data will reshape the nature of the firm/organization
• establishing meaningful data ethics and managing data bias in an increasingly automated world
• how to build the tools needed to enable responsible insight sharing
Participants discussed why each chosen topic was important, possible positive and negative scenarios in this area, core drivers of change, and lingering questions.
Taking digital literacy as one of the discussion areas, participants agreed that it is a significant area of future change because there will be greater access to technology and a decrease in education barriers. As a result, increasingly more essential services will become digital, even if misinformation continues to proliferate.
With that scenario in mind, it is likely that digital literacy will continue to be integrated into the curricula for all schools in the US, so today’s youth will be better equipped to identify misinformation and will have developed tools to distinguish good information from bad information. Most participants expected that increasing public awareness will drive more government regulation and self-regulation by big tech companies and that ultimately this will deliver greater self-empowerment with a rise in incomes. However, this topic also presents a number of challenges and discrepancies, such as equal access to a good quality education. Additionally, there is an inefficiency in managing misinformation and digital addiction, and there is a risk that society will continue to polarize along political and economic lines.
One core challenge that insufficient digital literacy presents is the inability of democratic governments to function efficiently. On the flip side, increased literacy will improve workforce productivity and the empowerment of individuals through increased ownership, control, and custodianship of their data with its increasingly valuable uses in mind.
At the end of the day, organizers revisited the core topic of the future value of data and asked for new insights or updated views. There was general consensus that the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules are shaping the contours of the discussion around regulations, though consensus on the impact of GDPR itself was less clear.
Ultimately, there was no definite closing on what the value of data could look like, simply because it is constantly changing and unpredictable. That said, the focus of this event was not necessarily to reach a definite answer on what the future will look like but rather to explore the value of data from multiple aspects- core motivations, technology shifts, privacy, ethics, efficiency, and ultimately the broader social and cultural implications of data, its use and the value it could create.