It's time to be responsible with data

Accenture Australia Ltd

By Joshua Kennedy-White
Tuesday, 18 April, 2017

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Organisations need to embrace the emerging doctrine of ‘corporate digital responsibility’.

Organisations with access to personal data are continuously faced with a range of difficult questions concerning the ownership of that data, including: Do appropriate restrictions exist for those governing how the data is used? Who enforces such restrictions? Where do you draw the line between what is public and what is private?

As organisations continue along the path to becoming digitally responsible, there are five principles they should embrace.

Stewardship. Organisations must use the data they collect in a responsible and secure manner. Companies such as Apple and Amazon are leading the way by refusing to share detailed personal data with third parties. Meanwhile, platforms such as Google and Facebook face increasing pressure to be more transparent about how they share anonymised data to third parties, the extent to which they personalise advertising based on personal data and the indefinite storage of personal information on server logs.

Transparency. Organisations need to develop strategies to manage growing customer expectations for greater digital transparency. For example, Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica is beginning to offer customers opt-in choices for sharing personal data in exchange for new services. The company also incentivises active data sharers with rewards.

Empowerment. Organisations can use data in their control to offer individuals greater digital empowerment, supporting them to make better decisions about their health, education and finances. Here in Australia, the Commonwealth Bank uses data and predictive analytics captured via an interactive platform to help customers make better-informed personal finance decisions. Although there may be short-term costs (for example, fewer overdraft charges going to banks), with this approach, the bank experiences the benefits of long-term customer loyalty and enhanced reputation.

Equity. As customers become more aware of the value of their data, organisations will need to offer greater digital equity. This means viewing data collection as a two-way transaction. Launched in 2014, New York-based social network Tsū earns its revenue through on-site advertising. The firm distinguishes itself by sharing 90% of its advertising revenue with its users via a sliding scale that rewards them according to how active they are on the site.

Inclusion. Organisations should seize the opportunity to practise greater digital inclusion, multiplying the impact of their digital assets for social good. For instance, in 2014, Johnson & Johnson allowed Yale University to access all of its clinical trial data to help advance science and medicine — positioning itself favourably with consumers and medical professionals alike. In the same year, Twitter launched data grants to share tweet data with selected researchers in order to address issues ranging from urban flooding to foodborne illness.

The gap between principles and practice remains significant. Today, any responsible digital strategy will have to be implemented at the core of the business as a key lever towards providing enhanced differentiation and new sources of growth.

Joshua Kennedy-White is the Asia Pacific Managing Director for Accenture Security. Prior to joining Accenture, Joshua worked for clients in the security, infrastructure, banking and resources sectors. He is a director of Strategic Forum, a not-for-profit think-tank that aims to advance strategic thinking on Australia’s national security challenges. He holds patents in Choice Modelling and Experimental Design and is chairman of Predikkta, an analytics business that unlocks complex consumer choices.

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