Addressing Inequality and the ‘Data Divide’

Daniel Castro at the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation: “In the coming years, communities across the nation will increasingly rely on data to improve quality of life for their residents, such as by improving educational outcomes, reducing healthcare costs, and increasing access to financial services. However, these opportunities require that individuals have access to high-quality data about themselves and their communities. Should certain individuals or communities not routinely have data about them collected, distributed, or used, they may suffer social and economic consequences. Just as the digital divide has held back many communities from reaping the benefits of the modern digital era, a looming “data divide” threatens to stall the benefits of data-driven innovation for a wide swathe of America. Given this risk, policymakers should make a concerted effort to combat data poverty.

Data already plays a crucial role in guiding decision making, and it will only become more important over time. In the private sector, businesses use data for everything from predicting inventory demand to responding to customer feedback to determining where to open new stores. For example, an emerging group of financial service providers use non-traditional data sources, such as an individual’s social network, to assess credit risk and make lending decisions. And health insurers and pharmacies are offering discounts to customers who use fitness trackers to monitor and share data about their health. In the public sector, data is at the heart of important efforts like improving patient safety, cutting government waste, and helping children succeed in school. For example, public health officials in states like Indiana and Maryland have turned to data science in an effort to reduce infant mortality rates.

Many of these exciting advancements are made possible by a new generation of technologies that make it easier to collect, share, and disseminate data. In particular, the Internet of Everything is creating a plethora of always-on devices that record and transmit a wealth of information about our world and the people and objects in it. Individuals are using social media to create a rich tapestry of interactions tied to particular times and places. In addition, government investments in critical data systems, such as statewide databases to track healthcare spending and student performance over time, are integral to efforts to harness data for social good….(More)”