In September 1983, a Korean commercial airliner with 269 souls on board strayed off course and into Soviet airspace. It was intercepted by a Soviet fighter jet, then shot down with a deadly air-to-air missile. Everyone on board perished.
To prevent such tragedies from happening again, President Reagan took a bold step and ordered the US military to make the then-new Global Positioning System (GPS) available to everyone. The GPS satellites send precise beacons down to Earth that, when combined, provide users with exact locations. The change in policy wasn’t costless. Building the satellites, sending them to space and maintaining them ran into the billions. The US military considered location information strategic and had scrambled the signal, so that nobody else could use it. But Reagan believed having everyone use GPS would be worth it – not only because it could save lives. It could also spur progress and innovation. He was right. GPS led to breakthrough innovation from fleet management to smartphones, created new global markets, and enabled societal progress at scale.
It may be time to apply the lesson from GPS to digital platforms.
In our data age, access to data is increasingly crucial – whether for economic success, innovation, or human survival. But data is unevenly distributed. A very small number of very large platforms companies collect and control huge amounts of data. Nobody else can access these potential wells of insights.
Lopsided access to data is not only an economic problem. We all need facts and data to make better decisions. If only a few have access to data, we inhibit our ability to decide well. It is a horrific wastage of potential insights and progress. Without sufficient data, we understand less and choose badly, individually and as a society.
Data access could help make mobility more efficient and sustainable. Today, Tesla cars collect mountains of data from sensors and send it to the mothership. That data is only used to advance Tesla’s self-driving capabilities. But the data could be far more useful. With it we could identify perilous road sections and city streets in need of a pedestrian crossing. Improved road safety could save lives and reduce the million plus annual deaths worldwide caused by traffic accidents. It would also enable innovation. Right now, public transport companies in many cities have exclusive data deals with Google.
Or take Alzheimer’s: the illness is likely caused …read more
Source:: Time – Technology