Data collaboration for the common good: enabling trust and innovation through public-private partnerships

Public-private partnerships Sustainable development Innovation Big data Data protection

As the digital technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution continue to drive change throughout all sectors of the global economy, a unique moment exists to create a more inclusive, innovative and resilient society. Central to this change is the use of data. It is abundantly available but if improperly used will be the source of dangerous and unwelcome results.

When data is shared, linked and combined across sectoral and institutional boundaries, a multiplier effect occurs. Connecting one bit with another unlocks new insights and understandings that often weren’t anticipated.

Yet, due to commercial limits and liabilities, the full value of data is often unrealized. This is particularly true when it comes to using data for the common good. While public-private data collaborations represent an unprecedented opportunity to address some of the world’s most urgent and complex challenges, they have generally been small and limited in impact. An entangled set of legal, technical, social, ethical and commercial risks have created an environment where the incentives for innovation have stalled. Additionally, the widening lack of trust among individuals and institutions creates even more uncertainty. After nearly a decade of anticipation on the promise of public-private data collaboration – with relatively few examples of success at global scale – a pivotal moment has arrived to encourage progress and move forward.

In response, the World Economic Forum’s Trustworthy Data Initiative has spearheaded an in-depth exploration of the contributing factors for catalysing progress in the domain of public-private data collaboration. Focusing on the multidimensional challenge of strengthening trust, a diverse community of commercial, government, academic and civil society leaders have participated in a series of global workshops and summits. The resulting outcome is a pragmatic framework for balancing two competing concerns: the imperative to innovate and the need to protect against emerging risks.

The following report reflects the synthesis of an in-depth review of case studies, expert interviews and global workshops with prominent members of the practitioner community. They point to the need for a more holistic, iterative and outcome-based understanding of public-private data collaboration. The findings point to five areas for leaders to focus upon to strengthen trust. Leaders need to:

  1. ensure that all relevant stakeholders are committed to shared outcomes;
  2. operationalize the principles of responsible data governance;
  3. deliver insights that are achievable, accurate, fair and explainable;
  4. support both senior leader decision-makers and front-line users with the skills and resources to use data; and
  5. establish sustainable economics to ensure long-term impact.
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