Saturday, July 25, 2015

Cortana Analytics Suite could provide democratized access to SB 573 datasets

Microsoft Corporation has recently announced the Fall, 2015 availability of its Cortana Analytics Suite, which will combine several Big Data & Analytics tools along with an interface built around the Cortana intelligent digital assistant program.

Now Cortana, which can already tell you about the news, and weather, will be able to answer questions about what’s inside the vast troves of data currently held by state and local agencies in California and which would become publicly-accessible if SB 573, a bill to create a Chief Data Officer of the State of California and a universal open data online portal, becomes law.

SB 573, sponsored and authored by first-term California State Senator Dr. Richard Pan (D-6th), is now pending in the California State Assembly.

According to Peter Diamandis, creator of the XPrize and the author of Abundance, says that there are six D’s involved in technological evolution:  digital, deceptive, disrupt, dematerialize, demonetize, democratize.  He argues that technology is and does all these things.  All things are becoming digital.  Exponential growth is deceptively slow at first.  Technology is disruptive.  Processes tend to be dematerialized, like the way cameras become apps on smartphones.  They also tend to become demonetized, so that the marginal cost of producing another photo or video approaches zero.  The availability of these low-cost products and services tends to have a democratizing effect, as when anyone with access to the Internet and a social media account can perform interactive transactions and have virtual experiences that were previously unavailable or unaffordable and that are, again, digital, deceptive, disruptive, dematerialized, demonetized, and democratized. 

(Just look at what you’re reading now, which I’ve published on Blogger courtesy of Google and promoted on Facebook and Twitter, reaching potentially (but not actually) millions of viewers at zero marginal cost, except the time it took to write this text.)

Giving everyone who wants it access to the overall and most minute aspects of what their government is doing will not be without challenges.  Protecting the privacy of individually-identifiable information against disclosure or other threats should be the highest priority.

What about the clients of the agencies that will subject to the provisions of SB 573?  Will law-enforcement, the Employment Development Department, welfare and health departments and hospitals operated by the University of California be required to release information about those who use their services?   Arranging a fair and open process to determine what data should be published and which should not will be imperative.

The implications and ramifications of SB 573 need to be identified and discussed at length and in detail before the bill becomes law.    

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