Monday, July 21, 2014

Data neutrality

As the “net neutrality” debate kicks in – effectively forced by a handful of monopolistic companies who almost already control the internet in an attempt to make it even less accessible, it is encouraging to see that the city of San Francisco (SF) is heading in the other (and correct) direction. The recently appointed Chief Data Officer (CDO) of SF is initiating a strategic plan for making data open. Data, the only remaining valuable raw materials in the world, are largely locked up by a handful of companies, generating monopoly profits for them.

It is high time that data are democratized. As the economy shifts into making every decision data driven, delegating the meaning of the phrase “gut feel,” to the pain one gets after a heavy and unpleasant meal, existing and antiquated monopoly laws need to be rewritten. The industrial revolution is over and today’s economy is not driven by the manufacturing of nuts, bolts and automobiles – it is driven by information and intellectual property (IP). Real monopolies of today are those who are hoarding data and those who have unfair advantages in the use of the central nervous system of the economy, the internet, to create and lock up IP. The fact that the regulators are even considering the argument that the internet needs to be subdivided, providing more skewed advantages to those who already operate as monopolies indicate that they are completely out of touch. A congress, filled with octogenarians and a bureaucracy, only slightly younger, are in no position to make laws in the information age.

Net neutrality and democratized data are necessary conditions for unbridled innovation and economic growth. Anything less will be a step back – something regulators are well advised to stay as far away as possible.