“Data sovereignty is just a fancy word for saying that whatever data is mine, whatever data that I generate, whatever activity that I have, whatever content that I produce to help you power and fuel your ecosystem, I own it and I get to tokenize it and I get to volunteer it and sell it to you in ways that I agree to, instead of this blanket system of fine print that we have every time that we download an app and decide to you use it.” – Susan Oh
Susan Oh talks to me about data sovereignty and the Internet of Value that is being created by blockchain tech and cryptocurrencies. The way the internet has been going, where we give away all of our data for free isn’t working.
“We willingly give away all our data that is worth billions of dollars and then companies take that data and they sell it to third-party intermediaries into then weaponizing that data to get us to buy more sh*t”
And now that our lives are becoming more and more digital and we have all kinds of data points out there, there’s an opportunity for a new system. Susan shares her ideas on tokenizing data, with transparency and security built into it using blockchain tech, so the value of that data can be democratized. It can reward users who agree to share their information by participating in yes or no questions, polls, or surveys or by agreeing to look at ads or receive messaging. And why shouldn’t people who are willing to share their options, their likes and dislikes, or their time (like we’re doing now for free now) get paid in tradeable tokens.
In mainstream media, blockchain has become the good guy and crypto the bad guy, but Susan believes that without crypto and the tokenomics model, you’re throwing out the best part of blockchain. Since the technology of blockchain is what gives transparency, the question she raises is, ‘where do we need transparency more than crypto?’
Susan’s MKR.ai the platform is designed to crowdsource the validity and opinions around the top trending fake news stories. From her experience as a business journalist, she realized that no one cares about facts, they care about stories. So, she aims to invite participation of users who choose to share their ideas and are rewarded for being part of the community. Those who have the strongest references based on the most valid citations, with the most votes, are rewarded with tokens that can be used within the platform or exchanged for other cryptos.
One of Susan’s main goals is to shift the conversation from right vs wrong to look at the methodology and the ideas or ideas around the technology. She uses an example of inviting a Bitcoin maximalist, Ethereum maximalist and an academic policy chain enthusiast to the same table so that real ideas come to life. When they look for common ground or where their ideas differ, greater awareness overall is the end result.
Understanding the advantages of new technology as well as the limitations and exploring ideas from all sides is one of Susan’s strengths. She aims high and is looking at how tech can improve the status quo not just in her own locale, but around the world. It’s no wonder Susan was honored with one of the “Top 10 Frontier Women” awards, given by 5th Element Group’s Decade of Women campaign in partnership with the United Nations.
When it comes to women in this space, and even women who are simply users of the internet, women should feel empowered. Susan explains that we’re the most powerful consumer group in the world because women are socialized to consume products from the time we’re young girls and then we grow up to be women who may also be wives and mothers who more often than not are the ones who make purchase decisions for the household. And she goes on to say that women are natural communicators, that if we like something we want to tell everyone we know about it and even ask about it later to find out what our friends thought of this amazing thing that we all just discovered. So, Susan says that “you couldn’t have a better ambassador for nascent tech, than women who have skin in the game and who want everyone to know about it”.
And besides our natural bent toward diving in and sharing the good news, Susan says that the tech is a DIY culture that’s really welcoming, collaborative and meritocratic where the majority of the people who are in the space believe in a decentralization and inclusivity.
And since Susan is an advisor to the Hoboken Smart City Project we also talked about how data sovereignty might work there. She explains the idea for the project was generated by Sergio Fernandez de Cordova whose idea is to turn the city into a real-life digital lab where citizens could agree to give the city or local businesses data points in exchange for tokens that could be used toward their utility bill or that stop sign down the street they were petitioning for. When data becomes democratized and there is data sovereignty, then the city will have to compete with other cities and give incentives for why skilled people would choose to live there.
If colleges and universities, and some high schools, compete to attract people to come their way, it makes sense that cities, as we become more and more globalized, would too.
Susan is also working with Adnan Hassan, founder of Mecasa Advisors and former Board Member of The World Bank, on a Global Bank of Small States platform of interoperability that brings together, virtually, 101 small states. The states that are being included have a population of less than 10 million with a high GDP per capita but low GDP overall so are not part of the G10 global fee structure for international finance and practices. Bringing together small states is a way to help build financial and social capital. A service provider or entrepreneur can join in, have access to educational resources and by participating in that learning, teach others how they learn by sharing their data. Then they can open their services to other countries as part of this group of small states.