by John Okoro
Head of Agile Practice
Organisations combining agile data governance with blockchain could overcome the usual problems of storage and retrieval that so often stop them from using data efficiently, writes John Okoro
We’re all aware that data is a fuel for growth and that managing that data can be tricky – whatever an organisation’s size. Double entries, omissions, errors and silos all put the brakes on its efficient use – despite valiant attempts to instil best practices for gathering, recording and storing it.
So, what can be done to make data storage and retrieval better so that its full value could be extracted?
Enter agile data governance and blockchain.
Effective agile data governance could allow organisations to have swift (legitimate) access to data that can be easily updated while maintaining a high level of integrity – so fewer omissions, double entries and errors. It can be achieved by creating governance from the bottom up, rather than top down, thereby making such governance directly relevant to users.
Top-down data governance can lead to burdensome bureaucracy that quickly gets ignored. It creates rules that the whole organisation must adhere to, whether they’re relevant or not, which can result in rules being poorly followed or gaps in records. People like to take shortcuts – it’s human nature – and when something isn’t directly relevant to them, they’re more likely to forget important steps. This compromises quality. But when governance is introduced to provide support where the data is used, typically those rules are followed more closely. And firms using this technique are also increasingly looking to blockchain as a method of storage.
Blockchain, hitherto best known as a data-storage system for crypto currencies, could be a good solution for organisations looking for strong data governance. It’s very structure – sequences of time-stamped blocks of code/data that are immutable – offers a record of changes, maintaining the highest level of integrity and making it suitable to manage data across large groups.
While there is still a risk that data can become siloed, organisations taking a big-picture view can reduce that risk. In fact, when used with effective, agile data governance, organisations could achieve something akin to Google search efficiency with top-quality data governance.
Given this kind of power, it’s no surprise that more and more organisations are starting to look at using blockchain to help achieve agile data governance. These include banks, governments and the big platform companies.
The South African government recently announced an interesting pilot that aims to investigate how blockchain technology could be applied to digital identity, and the role financial institutions might be able to play in building a secure and inclusive identity system for the country. The idea is to use blockchain to cut fraud and speed up identification for people wanting to open bank accounts, take out loans or start new jobs, for example. The South African government estimates that 110 billion hours could be saved as e-government services are streamlined. Worldwide, a digital identity system could bring financial services to an estimated 1.7 billion people who are currently unbanked. Good digital ID could also boost a mature economy by three per cent as a result, while a typical emerging economy could benefit by six per cent.
The development of blockchain with agile data governance is still very much in its infancy. Within two to four years, many more use cases will likely have been proven, particularly within organisations that want to deal with Big Data, machine learning and artificial intelligence. This is because blockchain combined with Big Data analytics is powerful.
Blockchain’s security gives high value to the data stored within it. The immutable record that blockchain provides allows for data to be traced back to its point of origin. The fact that it is a distributed record means data storage can be decentralised, so it is not owned by a single entity, reducing the risk of data being stolen. So data stored on a blockchain with agile governance tends to be cleaner and fraud-proof, turning it into rocket fuel for any organisation.