The debate about the impact of "big data" on our personal and working lives has been raging for a few years -- now Telefónica wants to take that debate in a new direction with a discussion about whether the data that is being collected, stored and analyzed could act as a new form of currency.
The idea was posited Wednesday in Brussels at a summit on the topic, when the Spanish telco unveiled the results of a survey of more than 6,700 "Millennials" (people aged between 18 and 30), which found that the vast majority of that demographic saying that they're aware of the data being collected about them and that they feel in control of their personal online data. (See Millennials Get Big Data: Survey.)
At the same time, of course, they're also concerned about privacy and security, with more than 90% of those surveyed "taking active steps to protect themselves online."
Given those levels of awareness, and the growing volumes of data being created each year, Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) is (rightly) curious about the role of data in the future, leading it to sponsor a report on the topic, Data: the new currency?
The report raises a question of whether "data can be the basis of a new transactional relationship between people and companies in which both sides benefit from new products and services and increased economic growth."
That's a question that should be of interest to all communications service providers (CSPs), given that they have access to vast volumes of data about their customers and networks and are desperate to find new roles to play in a digital society (roles that will generate new revenues, naturally).
And it's interesting that in a time when the word "open" is being used so often as we examine the future network architectures being considered by CSPs, that the report also notes:
- In order to take full advantage of the potential of big data, it is essential that the vast amounts of data generated by organisations is made available in a usable form as open or 'liquid' data. Open or 'liquid' data needs to be machine readable, accessible to a broad audience at little or no cost and capable of being shared and distributed. According to a report produced by McKinsey in 2013, improving use of open data in seven sectors -- education, transport, consumer products, electricity, oil and gas, healthcare and consumer finance -- would produce $3 trillion (€2.2 trillion) in economic value.
It could be argued that data is already a loose currency, but one without a set exchange rate: Information is constantly shared by individuals, corporations and governments in return for some that has a perceived value. And who hasn't received a "reward" for sharing information in the form of a survey response of one sort or another?
What's being suggested here appears to be something different, though, something with structure. As CSPs consider their big data analytics strategies, and figure out a way to "monetize" the end results, maybe they need to think about non-traditional ways of gaining value from their data, especially if the resulting new methods chime with the "millennials."
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading