Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Data is Free

I'm probably not the first person to say this, but electronic data has no boundaries.  Whether you agree or disagree with what happened with WikiLeaks, the incident illustrates the difficulty in preventing the electronic flow of any information.  I wonder how long it will take a similar site to be established in a jurisdiction where the owner cannot be prosecuted.

It was a similar issue with LimeWire.  It took a very long time to shut it down.  During the years it operated, the volume of illegal copies of intellectual property made was staggering.  Despite the rampant viruses on LimeWire, it was still cheaper than buying it.  I don't advocate piracy or theft, but the forces that closed LimeWire cannot reach every potential file sharing host on the internet.

Like it or not, there are no sustainable boundaries to data.  Just like water flowing along the path of least resistance, data will eventually flow to whoever wants it.  So how do organizations get value from data they produce if they accept the inevitability that proprietary data is impossible to corral?

Maybe we should borrow a page from the open source software play book.  When software is free, the economic model is based on the value derived from understanding how the software works and how it can be applied for functional use.  Maybe we simply accept the reality that any data we create is of no standalone economic value, no matter how much effort is required to derive or collect it. Perhaps the real value of our data is in the intellectual capital we apply to interpreting the data for pragmatic applications.

Once we accept the inevitability of the economic forces at work, we can look for new models to build a new value chain.


No comments:

Post a Comment