• Striking a balance between data access and privacy is tricky.
  • Different approaches to the problem can either reinforce or redress existing power imbalances.
  • Discussions are progressing about the institutions needed to achieve balanced data rights.

2020 was a year like no other. Amid many other lessons, the crises of the last year showed once and for all that how we manage and use data can both save and destroy lives.

As the founder of the Open Data Charter, I have campaigned for a fairer balance of data rights for a decade. It has not always been easy to convince governments that decisions regarding how data is collected, shared and used have stark human consequences. Why should we invest time in publishing all this intangible information, they ask, when we have more pressing problems like recessions and climate emergencies to deal with?

I hear different questions now. Like: How do we get timely data on the pandemic from elsewhere, in a format we can quickly understand, act on and share? How do we strike the balance between using data to inform urgent initiatives that can save lives, while also protecting privacy?