Safe data sharing has the potential to power the new economy. Today the Internet of Things (IoT) has transformed the ways in which businesses and individuals connect. We believe that these connections can grow stronger as businesses and individuals securely share data with one another.

Wearables can help prevent on-the-job strains and sprains if employees feel comfortable sharing data on their movements with employers. Smart, green buildings can enhance energy efficiency when the lights in these buildings communicate with the power grid. As connected devices become the new norm, companies and individuals have the opportunity to explore how sharing data can generate, insight, action, and value.

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Because we believe that the potential benefits of data sharing can outweigh the risks, we’re sharing the results of our global study on the data sharing economy, conducted in partnership with RTi, an independent global research agency. The study focuses on attitudes towards data sharing and surveyed approximately 400 employees and 250 business executives in each of the following countries: the U.S., the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, Singapore, Japan, and China. Our survey’s findings reflect the rise of a new ‘digital trust’, a trust built on relationships that enable data sharing, transparency, and privacy in order to unlock business value. Here are three central insights from our study:

1. Before they share data, people need to know the benefits.

The majority of businesses and consumers (75%) around the world are willing to share data if they perceive some benefit. While some variation exists from country to country, in each country we studied, more than two thirds of respondents (employers and employees) were willing to share data. 

This willingness to share data in return for benefits spans all industries. Businesses that are more labor-intensive, and hence, more focused on safety, rank among those most open to data sharing. These safety-minded industries [manufacturing (77%) and transportation/warehousing (79%)] are also areas where early adopters are starting to see results. One might consider commercial trucking companies’ use of computer vision data to enable automatic braking systems that help keep truck drivers safer on the road.  

Data sharing is also more prevalent among larger, higher growth companies. Companies currently sharing data self-report a growth rate nearly twice that of those that share data on a limited basis, or not at all. 

2. In motivating the world to share data, cultural differences matter.

In our survey, 59% of respondents stated that improving worker safety would motivate them to share data. More than half of employers in most countries we surveyed stated they are willing to ask employees to wear devices that can help ensure safety at work, and higher still was interest in telematics in company cars to monitor employee driving and improve safety.

Yet despite the global interest in sharing data to improve safety, reduce risks, and lower costs, strong contrasts exist among motivations for sharing data in different countries. These differences likely stem from cultural and business norms, and laws and regulations around data sharing from country to country.

  • Improving financial performance represented the strongest driver of data sharing for respondents in the U.S. and Australia, but one of the weakest drivers of data sharing in China, Singapore, and Italy. 
  • Respondents in China, Singapore, and Italy stated that what motivated them to share data was: 1) the opportunity to improve deals or product and service offers; and 2) the opportunity to be viewed as an innovator. 
  • In the UK and in France, improving employee health and wellness and reducing payroll costs were the strongest drivers of data sharing. 
  • Employers in Germany viewed strengthening customer relationships, improving productivity, and managing inventory as the most winning value propositions. 

These results indicate that value in the connected economy is not one size fits all. When IoT concepts and products catch on quickly in country and fall flat in another, different attitudes towards data sharing may help explain why. While some markets serve as proxies for others, the message is clear: cultural differences matter. As regulations around privacy lapses shift and grow, it is particularly important to consider the impact of regulation on attitudes towards data sharing in each country where your business operates. 

Interestingly, in our survey, China ranked highest among both employees and employers for willingness to share data. China also ranks highest of all countries in trust of institutions, including government, business, media, and NGOs, according to Edelman’s 2016 Trust Barometer study. We observed this correlation between trust and data sharing worldwide: in our survey, both employers and employees stated that they were significantly more open to sharing data with companies that they perceive as ‘trusted.’

3. To succeed in the connected economy, create a culture of trust.

While motivations for sharing data vary from country to country, the need for trust is universal. In our survey, more than half of companies stated that they believe an employer has a right to collect and share data about how employees do their jobs. The vast majority of employees, however, are not willing to share data unless they know that their data will be properly handled and their privacy protected.

What does this new trust look like? A key prerequisite for both employees and employers is privacy; 81% percent of employees in our survey feel that their data must be kept private. Additionally, 76% of employees state that companies must clearly articulate policies governing the monitoring and sharing of employee data in the workplace. 

What should these policies be? Employees and employers agree that employees need to be notified if their data is being collected (76%), and that employees should have the opportunity to ‘opt in’ to data sharing (72%) rather than having to choose to ‘opt out.’  

Does regulation have a role to play in increasing trust between companies and individuals in the data sharing economy? The answer is a clear ‘yes.’ Nearly 90% of employees and employers surveyed agree that laws need to be updated to accommodate the new ways that business share data. In addition to considering the different interests of employees and employers, regulators must balance the need for privacy with the potential for innovation that can arise from IoT devices fueled by data sharing. The rapid rise of IoT poses a unique challenge for governments: how to regulate a new world of devices that will accomplish groundbreaking tasks and goals

Ultimately, by highlighting the potential of data sharing and which changes can help realize that potential, we hope to help inventors, investors, consumers, and senior business decision makers, including risk managers and chief risk officers, take steps towards new business models and capabilities that can thrive as the connected economy grows. To read the full report highlighting our findings on data sharing around the world, click here

The content contained herein is intended for general informational purposes only.  Companies and individuals should not solely rely on the information or suggestions provided in this article for the prevention or mitigation of the risks discussed herein.