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The data industry is still in its infancy in most of Asia, and Taiwan is no different. Thus, I think it is too early to discuss what its data marketplace looks like, but rather explore what it ‘could be’. Unfortunately, the current status is more like selling raw commodities with very little added value, or bundled with other services to act as a gap-fill for a bigger story. It is mostly about volume and quantity and not about value and quality. For a marketplace to succeed, the industry needs to find a way to differentiate the good (data) from the bad (data) and introduce order into the ‘Data Wild West’.
Given the practical challenges of data as an industry in Taiwan (seeImpact of European Union General Data Protection Regulation on Data Sharing in Taiwan), for a thriving data industry to grow organically, we need to:
1. Minimise political risk (risk should be market-driven instead of government-led), and
2. Ensure data ownership and control at the individual level (as Taiwan ‘data’ market is dominated by foreign leaders).
This actually positions Taiwan with a unique need and opportunity to promote a decentralised data marketplace. This means rather than needing to introduce its own data giant to compete with big global players like Facebook, Google, LINE or Microsoft, it can collaborate. Rather than relying on authoritative central government to control data (like in China, India and many others), which brings an unwanted political risk, it can depend on the backbone of Taiwan economy – namely innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
For this to succeed, Taiwan government needs to set a level playing field to give its SMEs a fighting chance. This needs to come in the form of:
1. Making data available to local SMEs – mandating big data and foreign players to comply with basic guidelines,
2. Making funds and investments available through government-led investment and tax incentives – not through post-investment subsidies,
3. Making talent and intellectual property available – via attracting leading data companies to leverage Taiwan as a ‘data innovation hub’ (Google and Microsoft already have big innovation teams in Taiwan) and aligning these with local talents via strategic academic partnerships with research institutes before releasing these talents into private businesses,
4. Setting up ‘proactive sandbox’ – to help minimise legislation from slowing innovation. This needs to happen at the highest level and include key stakeholder groups, including top business leaders, topic experts, political leaders, media, and representatives from key impacted segments. The key here is to ensure there is a proper framework to introduce innovation and optimise the transition with traditional industries and players,
5. Setting up a robust data security framework and building public education on data security. This is to create a ‘data conscious’ healthy macro-environment for the industry to grow.
With the introduction of blockchain technology, there is an excellent opportunity for transparent, safe and auditable ‘registry’-like service that keeps a record of consumers’ consent to collect and use which of their individual data. Then businesses can access this registry to source ‘certified data’, and ‘black market’ data should be penalised (or at least scrutinised) to weed out bad practices (undermining legitimate players).