Leveraging the value of the social investment approach

The government is interested in place-based funding models which focus on outcomes. To do this they need access to high-quality individual data. But therein lies the government’s problem. People won’t trust the government with this kind of micro-level data. So the Data Commons solution provides an effective way to bridge the gap between government interests and individual and community interests in micro-level personal data. Rather than seeing this as a place to start, we should provide the service to the Community of Interest, then use this as a value-added opportunity to engage the government about data sharing from a position of strength. If we go to government too early, the interests at the centre are likely to erode trust as well as the bargaining power of the community of people who have mobilised around their own data interests.

Governments of both persuasions have signed up to open data and have sought reuse of government assets to drive value and innovation. Medical records, education records, and the like are national assets and assets to individual citizens. If citizens could reuse their own co-produced government data to form other relationships, then you would see innovation in education and health, for example. On several occasions one of our members has been asked by social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, scientists, and technology entrepreneurs for a way in to citizen data – with citizen consent.

The government has a lot to gain by enabling and supporting a Person Data Commons. Doing so will improve trust, obtain better access to data to inform policy, open up and drive social and commercial innovation, and improve New Zealand science. It will also significantly lower IT budgets for large government agencies. There are no substantive downsides for a country adopting a commons-based approach to personal data coproduced through engagement with government – except in losses to individual institutions’ level of power and control.

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