How world leaders use big data

It's a fine line between countries sharing data in order to help with common interests and imposing on the privacy of those who provide it. The World Economic Forum's director weighs in.

Dan Patterson, a Senior Producer for CBS News and CNET, interviewed Murat Sönmez, director of the World Economic Forum, about sharing data and the problems that arise from it. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

Dan Patterson: What do we mean by data?

Murat Sönmez: Data is basically information that a thing--a car--generates, or a device, or data about you. It could be who you are genetically, where you live, and how you live. If you look at healthy living, which is top of mind for everybody because the healthcare costs are soaring, these three determinants of health are: Where you are, where you live, and how you live. 

If you can collect data from sensors on the environment we live in, if you can collect data about your lifestyle--you need to exercise, what you eat--and collect data on genetics, we can pool that. Now, we can cure dementia. We can cure late-stage diseases.

However, we need to make sure that we protect the privacy of the owners of data. It is insights that we collect from people or devices that we can use--using new technologies, like artificial intelligence, to come up with new solutions.

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Dan Patterson: Now that we know what data is, when we isolate it--with this rise of nationalism, we might have splinter nets, we might have isolated data lakes. But as you said as well, the more data and the better data, the more we can do with it, like cure cancer. So how do we combat these increasingly isolated lakes of data with technology?

Murat Sönmez: I think a technical solution is easy. I mean, the world is already connected--the policies, the regulations are getting in the way. But what we do is, we work with 27 countries around the world. 

For example, in Japan, it's an aging society, declining population. They don't have enough workers, and more than 40% of the population will be over 65 in a couple of decades. And every nation will see that.

How do we service them? How do we cater to them? In order to address this opportunity and the problem, we need to combine different datasets, but Japanese data is not sufficient. Countries who are facing the same demographics--China will be in the same boat; Europe is seeing that. These are common purposes, and what we're seeing is once the alignment of purpose is there, countries are willing to share their data more freely as long as we can enforce it.

If you look at the ocean, for example: We're seeing the climate change for whatever the reason is. We have an initiative across 14 countries to share data to improve the state of the ocean spearheaded by Norway. But the data policies are getting in the way, so the regulators are waking up to the fact that, 'Hang on a second; if we want to improve things that matter to us, we need to find a way to share data.' That takes us away from nationalism to common interests, and we see the opening with that.

Watch more interviews with Dan Patterson and Murat Sönmez

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