Data Cooperatives as Catalysts for Collaboration, Data Sharing, and the (Trans)Formation of the Digital Commons

Paper by Michael Max Bühler et al: “Network effects, economies of scale, and lock-in-effects increasingly lead to a concentration of digital resources and capabilities, hindering the free and equitable development of digital entrepreneurship (SDG9), new skills, and jobs (SDG8), especially in small communities (SDG11) and their small and medium-sized enterprises (“SMEs”). To ensure the affordability and accessibility of technologies, promote digital entrepreneurship and community well-being (SDG3), and protect digital rights, we propose data cooperatives [1,2] as a vehicle for secure, trusted, and sovereign data exchange [3,4]. In post-pandemic times, community/SME-led cooperatives can play a vital role by ensuring that supply chains to support digital commons are uninterrupted, resilient, and decentralized [5]. Digital commons and data sovereignty provide communities with affordable and easy access to information and the ability to collectively negotiate data-related decisions. Moreover, cooperative commons (a) provide access to the infrastructure that underpins the modern economy, (b) preserve property rights, and (c) ensure that privatization and monopolization do not further erode self-determination, especially in a world increasingly mediated by AI. Thus, governance plays a significant role in accelerating communities’/SMEs’ digital transformation and addressing their challenges. Cooperatives thrive on digital governance and standards such as open trusted Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that increase the efficiency, technological capabilities, and capacities of participants and, most importantly, integrate, enable, and accelerate the digital transformation of SMEs in the overall process. This policy paper presents and discusses several transformative use cases for cooperative data governance. The use cases demonstrate how platform/data-cooperatives, and their novel value creation can be leveraged to take digital commons and value chains to a new level of collaboration while addressing the most pressing community issues. The proposed framework for a digital federated and sovereign reference architecture will create a blueprint for sustainable development both in the Global South and North…(More)”