Data as the New Oil – Ecosystems and Political Meaning
In this blog post, I will discuss some economic, societal, and legal issues concerning big data. One often hears that ”data is the new oil.” Like oil, data is a complex product derived from numerous processing and refinement steps and an entire economic ecosystem involving drilling stations, refineries and distribution networks, which include filling/gas stations. Similarly, one can draw an analogy for the big data realm.
Data drilling stations are, for example, information extraction and integration methods, which extract and enrich semantics from crude data. The refineries are data analysis and mining algorithms, systems, and tools, which cluster, group, and characterize the data in a new way in order to derive insight and actionable information. We already see an entire economy of distribution networks emerging around big data, with information marketplaces that sell transformed, semantically enriched, and further augmented forms of data.
However, just as with oil, there is a huge political dimension. Data is a critical information economy resource. Countries with easy access to crude data, who exercise control over important parts of the distribution networks, will emerge as leaders. It is therefore in each country’s interest to invest in data hubs to provide citizens, enterprises, research institutions, and administration with access to huge amounts of data and data analysis methods.
Data hubs are not to be confused with linked open data or the semantic web, as they differ both in intent and technological approach. Instead of linking data, connections in data hubs are established dynamically based on a particular analysis need (e.g., using data analysis methods drawn from relational algebra, statistics, signal processing, or machine learning).
Ethical standards, legal frameworks, international treaties, and agreements will be important not only for economic growth, but for society as a whole. In order to shape a global ecosystem and big data economy, close cooperation between governments and industry stakeholders will be required.