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Treating data as commons is more beneficial, says UN report

Graphic representing community data

Community data “could be about a community’s social relationships or about artefactual or natural ‘things’ owned by the community, such as public infrastructural and environmental data”, says the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development's (UNCTAD) Digital Economy Report that focusses on value creation and capture in the digital economy by developing countries. On the question of ownership of data, the report acknowledges that it is “difficult” to establish that. “Ownership might not even be the appropriate term.” — Digital Economy Report, UNCTAD Advantages of treating data as part of commons The report analyses two legal approaches to treating data as an economic resource: as a commons, or as private property, but lists the advantages of the former: When data has public good aspect, community would want to exercise rights over it: “Some data have a strong commons or public goods aspect, such as traffic data from a ride-sharing application that could help city authorities with the management of traffic. Rights over collective data may extend beyond the requirement for specific public interest applications, as the relevant community (which is the source of the collective data) may want to exercise its full rights over what is done with the data, including its economic application by private companies.” Real value of data is relational/social: “… The greatest value of data lies in their relationship with other data in order to provide insights or intelligence”. Reusing data doesn’t diminish its value and thus “groups and communities that are subjects of group/community data…

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