Democratizing Data in a Gig Economy – Insights from IE Brown in South Africa

“What if people really controlled their data—and the tech giants were required to pay for access? What would such a data economy look like?

The Economist posed this question in its recently published article, What if people were paid for their data? Triggered by the Cambridge Analytic scandal, the article focuses on consumers’ growing awareness and discomfort with negligent, unregulated and improperly remunerated commercialization of their data.

The takeaway from this Economist article: the AI revolution will be data-driven, and that data will not be free. It turns out, artificial intelligence is really more like “collective intelligence.” Machines arrive at the right answer, or as we like to say, learn, by processing reams of human-generated data.

While sparse machine learning will bring efficiencies, it will not abate the industry’s overall hunger as this technology invades more and more of the living world. Expect data to boom in an AI economy, just like oil during the industrial revolution.

Interestingly, IE Brown 2018 students, conducting research on data collection in South Africa townships, unearthed insights from the Global South that cast doubt on the success of market strategies dependent on cheap data, and simultaneously shed light on new market opportunities.

Check out the IE Brown EMBA Case Study, A New Community Data Model for Townships and the Digital World, to find out how data, in a gig economy, can be monetized by its rightful owners – the consumers. Equally importantly, learn how they can wrest control over their collective data to determine the questions being asked of it.

In an era of mounting digital privacy scandals, data rights is as much an issue for the residents of townships in Cape Town as it is for individuals operating in digital realms. Whose data is being sold, for what purpose, and in whose interest?


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