New blockchain-based marketplace hopes to unlock value of data, with IMDA's blessings

New blockchain-based marketplace hopes to unlock value of data, with IMDA's blessings

However, the model proposed by Singapore tech start-up Dex and PwC will not be the only project IMDA supports, says Mr Yeong Zee Kin, assistant chief executive for Data Innovation and Protection.

Dex, PwC, IMDA briefing on data marketplace
Dex CEO Chirdeep Chhabra (centre) is joined by IMDA's assistant chief executive Yeong Zee Kin (second from right), Roche Diagnostics' Lance Little (right) and PwC Singapore's Data and Analytics leader Mark Jansen. (Photo: Dex)

SINGAPORE: A new blockchain-based data marketplace to help companies unlock the value of sharing information was announced on Tuesday (Apr 10) by Singapore-based start-up Dex, who collaborated with PwC Singapore. 

It is also a project backed by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA).

Dex and PwC Singapore are developing a model where data providers and consumers can transact on, and this is built on its blockchain-powered decentralised data and services exchange platform called Ocean Platform. The platform allows data to be monetised and shared yet “guaranteeing control, auditability, transparency and compliance for all stakeholders involved”, the start-up explained in its press release issued on Tuesday.

CEO Chirdeep Chhabra explained during the media briefing the model enhances security for the owners of the data as once they have put it on the platform, it becomes an asset, and other parties cannot make another copy of it

“The data owner can also include access rights (to the data), as well as specific kinds of rights,” he explained, which gives the data owner greater control.

PwC Singapore's role is to help in the design of a "trusted data framework" to underpin the mooted data marketplace.

Six industry-led pilots have been earmarked for this initiative, with healthcare being one of the first to capitalise on the marketplace once it is up and running at the end of this year or early 2019, said Mr Chhabra during the media briefing.

For instance, Roche Diagnostics intends to collaborate on a pilot project to study how to send data on heart patients’ blood condition - whether it is too thick or thin (also known as the International Normalised Ratio) - to healthcare professionals automatically, and in real time. 

This, it said, will allow clinicians to effectively manage their patients’ conditions, or else complications such as bleeding or stroke may occur.

Mr Lance Little, managing director of Roche Diagnostics Asia Pacific, who was at the briefing shared that currently patients may regularly test their INR levels, but they can only share their results with doctors when they next meet and the waiting period tends to range from three weeks to months. The pilot project aims to address an existing gap -the “lack of tools to manage and interpret data”, he added.

“Through the pilot, we (also) hope to gain a better understanding of existing need gaps, which could enable us to create a data-driven healthcare environment that provides physicians with the right digital tools to support decision-making, and ultimately, better patient care,” Mr Little said.

LEARNING FROM THE INDUSTRY

The IMDA's involvement is to provide governance and regulatory oversight, policy guidance as well as feedback on the still-being-developed platform, Mr Chhabra pointed out.

Mr Yeong Zee Kin, assistant chief executive for Data Innovation and Protection at IMDA, said it is key that the new data marketplace “engender and foster trust among customers”, without which initiatives to help companies harness data will not take off.

Tapping on the value of data has been in the works for some time now. For instance, the Committee on the Future Economy’s report in 2017 had recommended, among other things, the Government to “harness data as an asset”.

It said then: “The Government should establish a dedicated programme office to support enterprises in making the most of data as an asset. The office can provide industry-specific regulatory guidance and co-develop flagship data science projects that will have positive demonstrative effects on other enterprises.”

Even before that, the then-Infocomm Development Authority had embarked on a data-as-a-service pilot project in 2014, which it had hoped would lead to the development of a data marketplace for interested parties to tap on the datasets to create applications - whether for internal use or to sell.

While that project petered out, IMDA said it generated several useful learning points. These include how having a centralised repository of data is not feasible, and that model does not engender trust among private sector firms as they would have to cede control of their data in order to use the platform.

This is why the decentralised blockchain approach appeals, Mr Yeong told Channel NewsAsia at the sidelines of the briefing. He added the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC), which sits within IMDA, hopes to be an “engaged regulator” by learning from the industry.

He noted that public sector datasets would also be made available on Dex’s marketplace, depending on relevance, and IMDA’s data innovation programme office will “act as a connector” to facilitate the process.

The IMDA executive did stress that the agency’s involvement in this project is not exclusive, and it is “not the only project it will support”.

He is also not ruling out the possibility of the Government leading the development of a data marketplace in the future, but this depends on the learnings it gleans from this project and others.

“Today it is blank (in terms of how a data marketplace should look like) … but we hope to see something simple, something easy” so companies can learn how to get more value out of the information they have, Mr Yeong said.

Source: CNA/kk(ms)

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