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Past event summary

Future Value of Data

About the event

Building on insights from the global Future Agenda programme and adding new research, this event is bringing together 25 senior leaders to explore and share views of the key regional and global changes on the horizon in this important and fast-evolving area.

Launched in Bangalore, this major new project on the Future Value of Data is engaging with experts in 15 other countries around the world building a rich, informed view of how and why change is occurring.  With the use of data accelerating in and around many sectors, we will explore emerging technological, social, business model and regulatory shifts and how and where they may most impact over the next decade. We will also be exploring the emerging role of data in society – as summarised below.

As with all Future Agenda events, the discussion will be a highly interactive, immersive dialogue between peers and will not include formal presentations or speeches. We will be exploring changes to the value of data from multiple aspects – core motivations, technology shifts, privacy, efficiency, as well as social, regulatory and cultural implications. We will review insights from previous discussions, identify what may be missing and then focus on what and why will be most important over the next decade, both globally and regionally.

In order to support open dialogue, the workshop will run under the Chatham House Rule so that individual comments will be non-attributable but all will be free to use the output materials that we will prepare after the event. All participants will not only receive the outputs from this event but will also get all the insights from the other events that are taking place around the world as part of this project, as well as the final written report. In addition, we will also provide access to all the insights from the 120 Future Agenda workshops undertaken around the world in 2015 – which included many that touched on the future of data and specific related fields such as health, identity and privacy.


About Future Agenda

The Future Agenda is the world’s leading open foresight programme. Throughout 2015 it brought together multiple experts around the globe to share and discuss different perspectives of the world in 2025. The main program runs every five years and in between we focus on additional topics of interest to explore in more detail. In 2016 the focus was the future of cities and in 2017 it was the future of philanthropy and the future of patient data.


Why This Topic?

The meteoric rise of the so-called ‘tech titans’ whose business models rely on the collection, creation and monetisation of huge data sets, has thrust data to the forefront of social and political discourses around the world. These companies, whose products are now woven into the very fabric of our existence, have shown us what data can do and how it can transform our lives, but perhaps unwittingly, they have also pushed a topic once the preserve of ‘nerds’ and ‘wonks’ into the mainstream. Global public debate around everything from growing inequalities, political freedoms and human rights, to global resource management, climate change, even the very future of economic and social progress, all now involve heady proclamations about the use, abuse, power and possibility of big data.

There are also debates around the role of data in and of itself. The current landscape of such debate is often characterised by simplistic binary oppositions that cast one aspect of data capability or use against another. Take the open and heated politics around encryption and personal messaging services. In essence, this is a debate that sets the value of personal data privacy against the benefits and value of data collection for national security. This kind of divided debate often leaves little room for a middle ground.

Another example might be the debate around data ownership. Much of the tenor of this debate, particularly around the commercial use of collected ‘personal’ data, seems to be couched in a language that diverges views on the issue: either ‘you own it’ or ‘they own it’ or ‘you should own it’ or ‘they should own it’. The reality of course is much messier, but again a middle ground response such as ‘actually you might both, in some senses, own it’ misses the point. Where the ownership discussion is really coming from is the far more polarised politics around how the economic benefits of data collection and monetisation are distributed between the collectors and the collectees.

In a world of increasing inequality, those corporate entities that are able to both collect and harness massive sets of personal data for financial gain are often cast as, in a sense, exploiting or in some of the more extreme rhetoric, stealing, what rightfully belongs to their customers and users. In other words, the data ownership debate is polarised precisely because it is part of an already polarised political debate around economics and inequality.

Divided discussions are unhelpful. They leave us prone to policies or postures that shift wildly between extremes as one side or another gains ascendancy in different contexts. And there is more complication. Positions that are pitched against each other in one context, such as ‘security vs. privacy’, can actually be allied in another. Privacy and security, for example, are actually partners when it comes to defence against cybercrime. Similar contradictions and paradoxes crop up in discussions of proprietary data sets, intellectual property, open data and the almost mystical notion of data rights and responsibilities.

Event details


Almas Conference Centre


8:30am - 1:30pm, 30 Apr 2018

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