The value proposition of data reuse

Data is already being reused every day by individuals, businesses, scientists, researchers, and government organisations that have an interest in using it to make better decisions and add value to our lives.

After all, knowledge is central to all social, scientific, environmental, andeconomic activity. Data is at the heart of informed decision-making. For this reason alone, the potential benefits of increased data reuse and integration are likely to be enormous, and will affect all aspects of our lives.

Recent advances in computing and digital technology, wireless networking technology, and the miniaturisation of electronic sensing technology have led to an unprecedented ability to collect and process data almost instantaneously. These new technologies are already helping us to learn faster, better manage many kinds of risk, connect, collaborate, and form communities of shared interest. The evidence is all around us of the potential benefits for New Zealand of using data to drive innovation and economic growth, to provide better commercial and public services, to protect the environment, and to promote democratic participation and engagement.

Here are a few examples:

  1. If researchers can use your lifestyle data (such as what you eat), link this to sensors you wear (to monitor blood chemistry, temperature, and heart rate), and link your personal data to government health data (the genome and the medical history of people and their families), they will likely find patterns that can potentially predict heart attacks in advance, or find early signs of diabetes or cancer, or track and reduce the spread of influenza or bird flu. If that integrated view can be used at a personalised level and made available to your GP, you then have deeply personalised evidence-based health care. Your Apple watch would be more than just a toy on your wrist.

  2. The government wants to use integrated data to learn more accurately which of its social services achieve better outcomes. An integrated profile of a citizen allows the government for the first time to be accountable for outcomes because, over time, it can measure the actual effects of its services on individual lives. Access to citizen information by local services also probably means that more of the service design as well as delivery can be done outside of Wellington. As a result, the use of integrated data in government has the potential to create better outcomes for citizens, and a leaner, more effective, customer-focused service response.

  3. If social sector groups have access to data collected by government, then policy will be better informed and more widely debated and not just left in the hands of a few Wellington officials and politicians. Mobilising supporton local issues becomes easier with easy access to integrated data that can be reused by a more diverse community of interpreters and interest groups.

  4. Wireless sensors put into concrete slabs in new buildings will be shared with engineers (indeed quite possibly with anyone possessing a smartphone) who can check in real time on structural damage from an earthquake and thus determine whether a building is safe to re-enter. If this data is widely available, then employees might be able to better plan for and respond to emergencies. Data from motion sensors can already be integrated geospatially with Geonet quake monitoring results so that scientists and engineers can better model the effects of quakes and understand how to manage the risks they pose for structures.

  5. Where utilities companies, other businesses, and local government can share data on assets like pipes and roads, they can save money and time on maintenance and replacement. As a nation we can save on energy if businesses and utilities can share data and use smart meters and other smart appliances to make consumption smarter.

  6. Shared data could make business and government more accountable for environmental impacts. By remote sensing water quality and making the data available to anybody, people can know if it is safe to swim in a river and close the loop back to those responsible for protecting water standards. Indeed, if sensors are placed at different points in a river or a storm water system, this will help identify polluters such as dirty dairying or people flushing toxic chemicals.

  7. As one of the case studies in this report suggests, area pest eradication can be supported by communities with a common interest – DOC, regional authorities, local environmental groups, and individual householders – that collect and share data on pests and local ecologies for reuse by environmental entrepreneurs and scientists to plan and manage eradication campaigns.

  8. The concept of a personal data wallet is that the data generated by all your personal transactions – with your bank, supermarket, energy company, electrician, doctor – is held securely by you and shared only with your consent. You can then agree to share it on your own terms and subscribe to services that help you understand and manage your personal budget and lifestyle choices. We are already seeing that Virtual Agents (like Siri) work better for you the more data they can refer to in your personal profile – which can be kept securely for you in your data wallet.

  9. Duolingo crowdsources and reuses data from over 12 million people learning languages to constantly improve how it teaches them. “People with a profile like John’s like this kind of question, it keeps them engaged, so ask John to translate this.” This kind of self-learning integrated service is going to increase in value and sophistication. But much of this relies on mitigating the real commercial, personal, and professional risks that can arise if reuse is misuse.

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