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Consumer-based economy, how can we monetise our data and content?

If two main development technologies are Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence, then two main assets of future will be content and data. If they are both mainly generated (or will be in the future) and owned by consumer and they are to be managed by them, what needs to be done in order to make them most productive? Because at the end of the day, what benefits consumers have, if they own and control them, but they have no “exchange” value, just “sentimental”. Kind a like a nice picture, that you have at home and it is nice to watch until you get hungry but then you keep watching it, since you can’t trade it for food. Not really useful. Can we move from owners to benefiters?

We have government that would like to regulate both areas and protect consumers. And we have business that would like to use them in order to improve customer experience and be more successful.

And since business is more aggressive there are already developed areas where user generated content and use of user data are creating new business services, new consumer experience and in some cases even changing society structures. Some of the biggest companies of today’s economy are built on those practices – FANG.

So far government is introducing GDPR and we have IP protection legislation, which is trying to catch up with new digitalization and consumer-based economy.

Business is talking about building trusted AI environment, one that will bring transparency about mode of operation, data usage, goals of operations. Business is talking about giving benefits to consumers, that are willing to provide content and data. Yes they will tell you why and how they will use it, you will even get some stimulation for providing your content and data, but in reality you will still be sitting on this train as passenger and not driver. In a self-driving car not just metaphorically.

And what about government, can they do more for consumer, then just protect them. Well if government main role is to provide me with elemental services needed for me to function as fully operational citizen and to do it in the most efficient way for them and me, can they move into business mode and use my data and content, to enable me to have unlimited access to those services, based on clearance that I receive for my ownership of data and content.

Talking about potential our data and our own generated content have, let’s focus on self-usage of them, without government or business acting as intermediate from usage to value creation. In order to change approach from central driven, that is praxis of business and government in era of democracy and capitalism, to people driven, major changes in organisation of society will need to happen. To move into area of trusting people to take care for them self, this would mean to enable them to take actions them self. This will destroy social cohesion, that is today build on social practices running from families, to schools, to factories, to social welfare, to health-related practices, to state and international organisation…they are all build on perception that humans need to be socialized in order for general social status quo and cohesion is maintained. In order to do that, organisation can’t be transparent, they are built on trust, coming from authority and not credibility, they are built on levels, and levels have clear separation of duties and responsibility is built on concept of punishment and rewards.

Today’s mantra of people owning their own data and content, but not benefiting from that, if they don’t share them with business and government, is quite realistic. The only area where users can exercise their control is decision to whom they give them. And since government is not ready technologically and mentally to use them in a way to offer better services, it is clear that the winner of this area is business. The same business that talks about transparency and trust but will fight forever to keep control on social structure as is.

I always asked myself and sometimes others when I wanted to spice up debate, will the world be better place if everybody physically could not lie. I believe that after initial chaos and some strong emotional reactions, world would stabilise and people would benefit from reducing inefficient time, that was lost, because we were pursuing activities based on wrong perceptions. Well if we are to build a society of this type of transparency, then users could really become benefiters of their data and content and perception of “same start for everybody” can actually become more then perception.

Coming back to main questions about how can we monetize our data and content? Today we can only make smart choices about how we share them, but if society will develop in directions where government will be pushed into delegating some activities to users and it will be forced to more actively use new realities to increase efficiency and where business will be forced to adjust business models to survive transparent, trust based approach, that would be necessary in order to create more people-active society, then maybe, maybe we can think about our data and content as our assets and we will measure our success based on our ability to use them properly. Until then be smart how you share what is yours.

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Elements of data culture in companies by Alejandro Diaz, Kayvaun Rohweshankish and Tamin Saleh in McKinsley Quaterly, 3Q 2018

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