We are living in an age where data is becoming central to how our economies and societies function. Putting a precise figure to the value of data is extremely difficult, not least because there are lots of types of data and it is used in lots of different and unanticipated ways. But most analyses agree that the value of data is not being fully realised or evenly spread. Economies and societies that find ways to unlock this value and distribute it fairly will be at an advantage.

In this research, we looked at existing literature on the value of data, conducted interviews, and consulted with an expert advisory group. We looked at both the economic and informational characteristics of data and the data economy. We reviewed the different ways people are measuring the value of data. We examined how sharing data affects what value is unlocked and how that value is distributed.

Our work shows that the economic characteristics of data and the data economy mean the market alone will not unlock data’s full potential value. But it is possible to gain more from data with the right data policies, and an institutional framework that supports trustworthy access to data.

People mean different things when they talk about the value of data. Some people think of it only in terms of monetary value. They might focus on how much organisations should be charged for data or what figure to include on a balance sheet.

In this report ‘value’ refers to the economic concept of social welfare: the wellbeing of all society. Value arises from data when businesses create jobs or become more productive; when governments deliver more effective public services; when our environment is clean and diverse; and when people live happier and healthier lives.

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