Saturday, 13 July 2013

Economics made simple

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) belatedly issued a press release about the midata Innovation Lab which includes this:
Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson said:

"Today’s most successful businesses are the ones that are creative about building customer relationships. The new ’midata’ Lab is an exciting opportunity to put this to the test and explore how businesses could help customers use the data around their spending habits to make better choices.

"There is a lot to be gained from being open and using the information gathered on customers with their knowledge. Developing new and innovative ways to see data also helps improve customer service which will in turn promote growth. I would encourage businesses and developers alike to take advantage of this opportunity and establish themselves as a market leader in the digital market."
Is that true? Do you have a "customer relationship" with Unilever? If not, it doesn't seem to have stopped Unilever from becoming a pretty successful business. What is Ms Swinson talking about? What does she know about economics? Very possibly, nothing, but it doesn't stop her claiming that midata will "promote growth". Utterly unconvincing, where does this idea come from?

Does it come, perhaps, from Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt's Open Data Institute (ODI)? He's in charge at the ODI and he's in charge of midata and he says::
The Open Data Institute is catalysing the evolution of open data culture to create economic, environmental, and social value. It helps unlock supply, generates demand, creates and disseminates knowledge to address local and global issues.
Where did the ODI get this idea from? Was it, perhaps, from the Shakespeare Review?

Famously, Stephan Shakespeare – the founder of YouGov, the political polling organisation, the man who is devising a national data strategy for the UK – believes simultaneously that (a) you can't tell how much it will cost to open up Public Sector Information (PSI) and (b) the return will be "orders of magnitude" higher than the cost. But where did he get the idea?

Was it, perhaps, from the European Commission? Yes, them again:
Europe's New PSI Directive

... The expected effect of this new set of guidelines is also to generate income, as PSI data is raw ore to developers' — public or private —gold. Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission and head of the Digital Agenda, highlighted the potential economic value of going open with PSI: "Opening up public data means opening up commercial opportunities, creating jobs and building communities." She heralds it as a necessary transformation of European public and private culture.

Despite the welcome perspective of promoting transparency and racking up to €140bn in business and employment, critics quibble that the new directive could have gone further ...
Probably. Possibly. Who knows where these Economics for Dummies ideas come from? They're memes. It's all something to do with the hive brain. That's what the artificial intelligence people would have us believe. Neural networks can demonstrate that we bees can take concerted action, but never how we manage it.

So many experts in economics, they pop up everywhere, like mushrooms, but can you be sure that opening up PSI will help the economy to grow by €140 billion? No. You know that.

All you can be sure of is that your personal data will be harvested along with the public data, as the midata Innovation Lab have confirmed (your public education, health and travel data will all be added to your passport number and National Insurance number and bank account details), and that you will be required to store your data in a personal data store (midata), which "identity providers" will then use to confirm your identity whenever you interact with the government to access public services (IDAP/the identity assurance programme).

And don't forget – it's now illegal in the UK not to register on-line to vote.

The economic result of all the proposed data-sharing is unknown. The only thing that's certain is that you will be enrolled in a national or possibly even a pan-European identity management system.

World-class economics expert though she may be, that's what Jo Swinson's really talking about. Even if her officials haven't told her.

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