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Have your say on our data future

There are a raft of economic and social benefits from more smart data sharing, but the best approach could be to proceed with caution, a new discussion paper by the New Zealand Data Futures Forum says.

The organisation is calling for public feedback on the first of three papers, which highlights big data opportunities across the private and public sector.

This data comes from a range of sources, including electronic transport cards, social media use, smartphone sensors, apps, electronic sensors used to track noise, pollution and congestion levels and the internet of things, among others.

“The new data environment provides businesses with opportunities to create and sell new products and services, including new personalised services,” the report says. “The knowledge sector will grow, as there is increasing demand for the skills and technologies needed to make use of data.”

Greater access to public data among businesses will also support innovation, it says.

“Using government data, businesses will be able make informed bids for government business.

“When government services are better researched, planned and targeted then outcomes improve for people, society, and economy.”

Government agencies are already making more public data available under the Declaration for Open and Transparent Government, say the report authors. Examples include The Charities Register, topographic information and traffic volume data and these can be used by people, businesses and other government agencies for social and economic benefit, they say.

However, the forum is concerned about access and control issues surrounding data, saying there’s potential for misuse. It says misuse includes discrimination, exclusion, ‘Big Brother’-type tactics, invasive use and malicious use.

The forum suggests four future approaches for data use: maintaining the status quo, focusing on privacy and reducing the ability to share data, increasing the ability to share data and minimising harm while maximising benefit.

It prefers the fourth option. “We in the Data Futures Forum think it’s worth finding a way to have our cake and eat it; improving both sides of this equation at once. We want to consider ways to maximise the benefits and minimise the harms of this new technology and this new kind of future.” Feedback can be submitted at www.nzdatafutures.org.nz.

Amanda Sachtleben is an Auckland writer and social media type, who's also Idealog's former tech editor and business journalist.

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