You can’t always get what you want

You can’t always get what you want

Welcome to this week’s LEAP:IN newsletter. Each week, we unpack leader’s powerful quotes and decipher the tech landscape. With exclusive content from some of the world’s leading experts in AI, robotics, space, edutech, climate tech and more, read on to discover this week’s insights and subscribe to receive weekly updates direct to your inbox.

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This week we’re quoting…

Ivana Bartoletti (Global Chief Privacy Officer at Wipro)
What Bartoletti said:

“We know that if we want to transform as organisations, as a country, we really need to build on people’s trust. Because with that trust we can really make sure that they’re happy sharing data.”

Do users really want to control their own data? 

We can reasonably assume that most people like the idea of being in control of their personal data, and that the trust Bartoletti alluded to will exist when users feel like they’re in the driving seat. But as Sandra Matz (Daniel W. Zalaznick Associate Professor of Business at Columbia Business School) pointed out in this article for Wired, having control over your own data might not be as good as it sounds. 

“Empowering consumers by giving them a say is a noble goal that certainly has a lot of appeal,” Matz wrote, “Yet, in the current data ecosystem, control is far less of a right than it is a responsibility – one that most of us are not equipped to take on. Even if our brains were to magically catch up with the rapidly changing technology landscape, protecting and managing one’s personal data would still be a full-time job.”  

According to Matz, before we can consider giving users full autonomy over their own digital data, regulators have to create an environment that makes that possible and safe: “Under the proper conditions, individuals can choose among a series of desirable outcomes, rather than a mix of undesirable ones.” 

Basically, there has to be a basic level of protection pre-existing before users get involved in controlling their own data. They can’t have full responsibility for avoiding every cyber threat and mishap, because it’s just too much. Too overwhelming, too time-consuming, and too dangerous. 

(Sidenote, since reading that article on Wired, we’ve been humming the Rolling StonesYou can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime you’ll find…you get what you need)

Some innovators are trying to create those conditions 

A number of apps and services are emerging on the digital market, designed to give users some level of oversight and control over their personal data. 

And they’re trying to fill in the gaps that regulators have, so far, left wide open: building that pre-existing protection, filtering out the bad stuff, and enabling users to make autonomous choices from a selection of good options

Such as…

  • The TIKI app – which uses a simple swipe left/swipe right interface (yes, just like Tinder) to let users choose whether or not to share specific data each time they land on a website or log in to an account.
  • The Jumbo app – a security assistant for your smartphone that monitors and flags security risks, including data breaches and malware that tracks your activity. It can also do things like automatically delete old social media posts, to help you limit the trail you leave online.
  • Datacoup – a company that allows users to sell their data directly, instead of giving it away to big tech. Founder and CEO Matt Hogan said in an interview,

“I think the analogy is like you own land, and mineral rights to what is under your land. And all of a sudden, somebody comes in and sticks a pipe in it and starts piping out oil from your land and profits from it themselves. You would never allow that, that would be insane. And that’s in effect what happens every day with the consumer exploitation of data.” 

In numbers…

…going back to that question of whether users really do want to control their own data: 

  • 86% of consumers feel increasingly concerned about data privacy, with 78% expressing fears about the volume of data being collected (source: KPMG, 2021).
  • 86% of US citizens have tried to somehow remove or decrease their digital footprint (source: DataProt, 2022).
  • But only around 22% of Americans say they always (95) or often (13%) read company privacy policies before they click ‘agree’ (source: DataProt, 2022).
  • 38% of worldwide users in a 2020 survey said they’d be happy to share their data if it would improve their experience (source: Statista).
  • In the Middle East, 53% of consumers are open to sharing their data as long as there’s a clear protection policy in place, 45% are open to sharing their data if they get financial compensation, and 44% are OK with data sharing if they get a better, customised experience in return (source: PwC, 2022).

Watch the video: A panel on how to protect citizens and their data

And…

Hattan Ahmed (Entrepreneurship Director at KAUST)

What Ahmed said:

“It was a dream to build a university that is leading in terms of science and technology and research, at the shores of the Red Sea. And at the same time we wanted to hit the ground running – after inauguration we wanted to kick off with an academic curriculum, recruiting top tier faculty members and getting students on board from all over the globe.” 
 

Has KAUST achieved the dream? 

We’ve been doing a little reading on the projects and research that have come from this university since its launch in 2009. And we think yes – the dream is well underway. 

Why do we think so? Because of initiatives like these that have grown from KAUST beginnings:

Scientists at KAUST are growing different strains of algae to use as starter culture to grow large quantities of algae biomass, which will be used to feed animals including fish and poultry. Led by Dr. Claudio Grünewald, the project’s key objectives are food security and sustainability.

The university’s Destination Deep Tech program aims to bring leading global startups into Saudi Arabia to drive the development of tech innovations in the Kingdom.
And this year, the program spun in some exciting companies: CeEntek (engineers of ultra high performance concrete), Hopu (providing air quality solutions for smart cities), Insignes-Labs (developing antimicrobial additives to protect materials against microorganisms), Pasqal (building quantum processing units), and Proteinea (a biomanufacturing platform).

KAUST is using its own thriving mangrove forest to sink carbon down into the earth, and plans to continue expanding the valuable, protective ecosystem that the mangroves provide.

Researchers at the university (including Mani Teja Vijjapu, an electrical engineering Ph.D student) have created an artificial electronic retina that can ‘see’ just like a human eye, and can recognise handwritten digits. It’s part of a project that aims to develop better functionality for computer vision applications, and increase accessibility in the digital world. 

We’ll leave you with a touch of Thomas Huxley:

In a letter to British zoologist E. Ray Lankester in 1892, Huxley wrote: 

“The medieval university looked backward; it professed to be a storehouse of old knowledge. The modern university looks forward, and is a factory of new knowledge.” 

So here’s to the universities that share, inspire, and motivate new ideas. 

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