There’s so much hype around the idea of open data regimes that the natural inclination is to be cynical and say it will never deliver on its promise.
But let’s suspend our cynicism, if only for a while, and imagine a world where compliance-driven open data regimes (actually) put power back into the hands of consumers. The consumers’ decisions then drive significant change among providers and, as a result, change the world for the better.
Australia, where I live, has already implemented open banking in the financial sector, and the staged rollout has been going slowly.
Consumers will not have noticed much of a difference yet. The touted advantages, including portability of accounts, tailored offers, and the ability to go shopping for a better deal, have yet to manifest. Perhaps these wheels turn slowly, and COVID-19 lockdowns slowed down the pace of change.
But open data is not done yet. The next industry to implement open data under the Consumer Data Right in Australia will be the energy industry. It is also where industry pundits believe open-data innovation will accelerate.
Sparking change with open data
Paul Leahy, the country manager for Australia and New Zealand for data company Qlik, is a believer.
His company helps organizations extract data more efficiently from legacy systems, such as billing and supply. It offers a modern data pipeline so that data is better aggregated and made actionable faster.
“There’s going to be a lot of competition here in the energy sector,” says Leahy. “We are going to see the emergence of different providers, and we’ll also see the advent of new data recipient companies who can provide a service to the consumer and other data holders.”
“That will give consumers more choice and more power and control over their energy bills,” he adds.
Beyond the consumer dimension, Qlik’s view is that the changes can also be part of the wider digitization and transformation of many organizations.
Open data will require more modern digital platforms, and better data pipelines help systems become more responsive and agile. Regulation gets a bad rap, but in this case, the stick — in Australia’s case wielded by competition watching the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission — can be part of organizations grasping the carrot.
The ‘data can save the world’ theory goes like this: with more data about providers readily available, consumers will take advantage of greater account portability and choice providers with a more significant percentage of renewable energy in their mix. They might even, as has been offered in Singapore, be prepared to pay more for more sustainably sourced power as their contribution to a better planet.
Then, according to the theory, these consumer choices will then change the industry, and the response will improve service quality, drive down prices and add to the momentum for renewable energy.
Electrifying demand-side change
New providers and services could pop up. There might be a provider which aggregates data from all users in your suburb and anonymizes it, and delivers it back to you, so you can benchmark your usage and consumption against your neighbors.
Feeling guilty that you are using more power sourced from coal-fired power stations than your neighbors? You can easily change that in this new world.
Then there might be planning benefits. Australia has been a laggard in embracing electric vehicles, but only last week the New South Wales State Government exempted EV’s from stamp duty on purchases.
Open data might help plan the location of charging stations for EVs. That might seem like a small thing, but it is critical to the uptake.
As Deloitte says in a series of articles commenced in 2019, under the heading ‘Beyond the Energy Transition,’ when the demand side gets mobilized for change, change can happen.
“Opportunities for our collective energy future and the effectiveness of its transition are greater where there is coordination and collaboration between all key players,” according to Deloitte. “It’s critical that the energy sector works with the demand-side to enable a full understanding of needs and allow expectations to be met.”
“Those that answer this call are likely to be able to ride the wave of change beyond the energy transition,” it added.
Changing an industry with a swipe
Consumers already have so much information and data on their phones and already have the power to change.
Earlier this month, leading bank Standard Chartered launched a product in Asia in partnership with Swedish impact technology company Doconomy which helps clients track, measure, and manage their environmental impact.
With these kinds of tools in their pockets, the power to change will literally be at our fingertips.
Lachlan Colquhoun is the Australia and New Zealand correspondent for CDOTrends and HR&DigitalTrends, and the editor of NextGen Connectivity. His fascination is with how businesses are reinventing themselves through digital technology and collaborate with others to become completely new organizations. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.