Participant governance and control

Data reuse in the commons should be deeply democratic: participant-controlled at all levels. People can vote on the board or with their feet. Participant control is central to realising value and managing and maintaining trust. The locus of control is placed in the hands of those most affected by the decision on sharing and reusing the data in question.

Data providers and co-producers have a higher level of interest in the way their data is used and what it is used for than third-party reusers. They are typically more affected by misuse and should receive more benefit from allowing more reuse. They are well placed to make the best decisions about reuse that affects mostly them.

The locus of control also mediates trust. Since trust is built and eroded between parties over many data reuse transactions, control over the nature of that relationship, and whether to increase or decrease the level of access, needs to remain with those who have most to gain or lose from data reuse. In short, I need to be able to terminate my relationship with you if you start acting in untrustworthy ways. Alternatively, I might want to dip my toes in the water to try something out and am more likely to do that if I am free to continue or opt out once I see what level of value I get.

Participant control is also central to allowing the Data Commons community to resist predation by monopolising interests. If big business or government seeks to monopolise the Data Commons, people can vote with their feet and leave, taking their data with them to form a community elsewhere.

Essentially the NZDFF recognised that data reuse, integration, and sharing is all about the kind of relationship that is possible between the provider of the data and re-user or integrator of the data. The form of that transaction matters. The NZDFF found that if the relationship was high-trust and in the control of the data provider, then it would be high-value, and that inclusivity, rather than exclusivity, would also improve the value obtained from data sharing and integration. The principles are in fact a recipe for the nature of that transaction, which is the core of the relationship. Control is an important input into rebalancing the relationship between centralising interests and democratic interests. It puts governance on notice that trust is contingent and needs to be earned and maintained.

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