What’s the world’s most valuable commodity?
For many years, it was oil. “But things have changed in recent years,” Forbes contributor Michael Ashley writes. “Oil has been dethroned.”
Taking its place has been the commodities of the ascending technology industry. As a headline in The Economist put it last year, “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.”
This revolutionary shift is meaningful for several reasons. One of the most fundamental is that it upends the long-standing principle of economics that scarcity in a commodity is core to its value.
Data, as Ashley writes, is not scarce; it is vastly abundant. But because data lies in the hand of a few companies, the economic impact is the same. Google and Facebook, for instance, presently hold vast amounts of this data.
One of the great challenges of the data age remains privacy. Last year, over 4.5 billion digital records were stolen or exposed.
Given both the ascent of data’s value and the fact that this valuable commodity is being held by companies with a less than stellar record in protecting it, the time has come for a national discussion on data’s sovereignty.
Who ultimately holds responsibility for data’s protection? It’s an important question as governments wrestle with regulatory solutions and private companies now face the challenge of protecting what has emerged as the world’s most valuable commodity.