Data Stewards: Data Leadership to Address 21st Century Challenges

Post by Stefaan Verhulst: “…Over the last two years, we have focused on the opportunities (and challenges) surrounding what we call “data collaboratives.” Data collaboratives are an emerging form of public-private partnership, in which information held by companies (or other entities) is shared with the public sector, civil society groups, research institutes and international organizations. …

For all its promise, the practice of data collaboratives remains ad hoc and limited. In part, this is a result of the lack of a well-defined, professionalized concept of data stewardship within corporations that has a mandate to explore ways to harness the potential of their data towards positive public ends.

Today, each attempt to establish a cross-sector partnership built on the analysis of private-sector data requires significant and time-consuming efforts, and businesses rarely have personnel tasked with undertaking such efforts and making relevant decisions.

As a consequence, the process of establishing data collaboratives and leveraging privately held data for evidence-based policy making and service delivery is onerous, generally one-off, not informed by best practices or any shared knowledge base, and prone to dissolution when the champions involved move on to other functions.

By establishing data stewardship as a corporate function, recognized and trusted within corporations as a valued responsibility, and by creating the methods and tools needed for responsible data-sharing, the practice of data collaboratives can become regularized, predictable, and de-risked….

To take stock of current practice and scope needs and opportunities we held a small yet in-depth kick-off event at the offices of the Cloudera Foundation in San Francisco on May 8th 2018 that was attended by representatives from Linkedin, Facebook, Uber, Mastercard, DigitalGlobe, Cognizant, Streetlight Data, the World Economic Forum, and Nethope — among others.

Four Key Take Aways

The discussions were varied and wide-ranging.

Several reflected on the risks involved — including the risks of NOT sharing or collaborating on privately held data that could improve people’s lives (and in some occasions save lives).

Others warned that the window of opportunity to increase the practice of data collaboratives may be closing — given new regulatory requirements and other barriers that may disincentivize corporations from engaging with third parties around their data.

Ultimately four key take aways emerged. These areas — at the nexus of opportunities and challenges — are worth considering further, because they help us better understand both the potential and limitations of data collaboratives….(More)”