Organisations and communities

Organisations and communities are often responsible for creating, contributing to, stewarding and using data, and are often impacted by decisions that are made using it.

Organisations are responsible for stewarding and creating governance around the data assets that are part of our data infrastructure. They are usually trying to create value for people from data, by providing services, products or decisions for communities. Organisations that govern and steward data infrastructure include governments, commercial and public organisations, third sector and community and voluntary groups.

We usually talk about communities as being those who are impacted by decisions that are made by the organisations mentioned above, but many are actively involved as well, like the Wikipedia community of contributors who create and maintain the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia. Communities might need to access, use or rely on data for a multitude of purposes. Communities could also be those that support organisations, by contributing their expertise around data, or helping to collaboratively maintain a data asset, like a register.

Both organisations and communities are an important part of the data ecosystem, and each can play a role in both the supply and demand of data assets, which helps the ecosystem to become more sustainable. Creating an open, healthy dialogue between organisations and communities enables both parties to make sure that data assets are suitable for addressing common needs.

Two types of organisations of particular relevance to Smart Data are data intermediaries and data institutions. There is overlap between the two organisation types, data institutions are defined below by the ODI.

Data intermediaries

Data intermediary is a broad term, covering a range of different activities and governance models for organisations that facilitate greater access to or sharing of data. The CDEI paper Unlocking the value of data: Exploring the role of data intermediaries sets out the role data intermediaries play in data ecosystems, and how they help create value from data.

CDEI identifies seven types of data intermediaries, ranging from personal information management systems to industrial data platforms to trusted third parties, among others. They can operate across or within the public, private, and third sectors, encompassing existing organisations in these sectors with new responsibilities or new organisations.

In general, data intermediaries enable responsible data access and sharing while managing and protecting individual rights, including preserving privacy. However, data intermediaries may also go beyond legal requirements around data protection, and apply additional measures to protect against unethical use of data and ensure it is only used for agreed purposes.

Data intermediaries can play a variety of roles in a Smart Data ecosystem. As shown above, the Open Banking Implementation Entity (OBIE) functions as an intermediary by creating standards and APIs that facilitate the mandatory sharing of open banking data. Other intermediaries in the ecosystem include various data aggregators and technical service providers, among others.

Data institutions

Data institutions are organisations that steward data on behalf of others, often towards public, educational or charitable aims. The right kind of access to data is vital in tackling the big challenges we face – from the earlier detection and treatment of disease to reducing pollution in urban spaces.

Data also has an important role to play in driving economic growth and recovery by supporting the creation of new technologies, products and services. But those technologies can also cause harm, through automating decisions that need a human touch, or embedding existing biases, inequalities or competitive advantages.

Stewarding data is the foundational activity in the lifecycle or value chain of data – collecting, maintaining and sharing it. Organisations that steward data make important decisions about who has access to it, for what purposes and for whose benefit. How data is stewarded ultimately affects what types of products, services and insights it can be used to create, what decisions it can inform and which activities it can support. Stewarding data involves realising the value and limiting the harm that data can bring.

In the context of Smart Data, data institutions have a role developing and maintaining identifiers, standards and other infrastructure for a sector or field, such as by registering identifiers or publishing open standards. In the UK, Open Banking Limited was established in 2016 to develop standards and guidelines to drive competition and innovation in the retail banking sector.

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