People who know me know that I am a little bit obsessed with data. I have been around it for a long time across multiple different industries — originally in telecommunications, then media and ecommerce and more recently in financial services and FinTech. The breadth of applications I have seen have given me some perspective on how pervasive and consistently powerful data is within a business, but it wasn’t until I got exposed to the potential of cross-industry connectivity through data that I really understood just how powerful the potential of data was.

In a lot of fundamental ways, the emerging data industry has a lot of the same characteristics as the financial services industry. If you substitute the concept of money for data, you can immediately see the parallels. As we move to a cashless economy, money is just data with a single application. The infrastructure we need to enable its movement and security is highly analogous — banking infrastructure for data. Money and payments are an element of every industry vertical but also an industry in their own right, just like data. The greatest utility of money occurs when we have real-time, frictionless flow built on a foundation of inherent security, privacy, trust and governance, just like data. Money is neither inherently good nor evil — it is its application that determines its morality, just like data. Money can be used to create leverage in an economy but only to a certain extent before it becomes toxic. And here is where we see the biggest departure from data. A single data product or algorithmic insight can be leveraged again and again in multiple different applications, industries and contexts with no limit on the upside that can be created.

Financial services is an inherently regional industry, largely due to regulatory structures. Data, for now, is less encumbered by regulatory frameworks. That is beginning to change however as we see different jurisdictions begin to take different approaches to the emerging data economy. China is allowing a thousand flowers to bloom with incredible innovation as a result. The EU has kicked perhaps the worlds biggest regulatory “own goal” with GDPR. Many other markets are developing their first ever privacy framework and battling with the same privacy versus innovation trade-off that all markets now face.

The markets that take a long term, holistic perspective on the potential of the emerging data economy and develop a considered strategy and policy framework to ride that wave will benefit for decades to come. This is an opportunity that for once, Australia is at the front edge of and can lead rather than follow. To do so, we will need a co-ordination and amplification of our efforts, investments and regulatory frameworks.

Given that data is the fuel upon which the AI engine is built, the foundations we lay down here have material implications for the development of our local AI industry as well.

This report fully captures my thoughts on the emerging data economy and Australia’s place in it.

I am going to continue to champion this cause on behalf of our growing portfolio of data ventures and the Australian venture community at large. If anyone feels as passionate about getting this right and wants to bang the drum with me, please feel free to reach out.