Shifting towards hybrid working and remote work structures has exerted additional pressure on organizations to accelerate the digitalization of their business and fast-track the introduction of data democratization techniques. A study by CBRE showed that close to 60% of Asia-Pacific companies intend to retain hybrid working arrangements even as employees return to the office on the back of easing COVID-19 restrictions across most of the region. While the employees and stakeholders of today may not be in close geographical proximity with one another, data must remain accessible to drive collaborative professional experiences across organizations and borders.
Now more than ever before, the explosive rise of data volume, analysis tools and computing power has given enterprises an unprecedented opportunity to embark on data democratization in order to make data-driven decisions across teams, organizations and industries globally. Companies are responding by enhancing the capability and volume of their digital infrastructure and increasing interconnection bandwidth. According to Global Interconnection Index (GXI) 2023, a market study conducted by Equinix, the interconnection bandwidth of Asia-Pacific is predicted to grow at a 40% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2025, reaching 7,552 Tbps, equivalent to 30 zettabytes of data exchanged annually.
Remote Working as an Accelerator for Data Democratization
The rise of remote working has changed the workplace landscape and organizations are choosing to adopt hybrid work arrangements or opt for a fully remote workforce. “Work From Anywhere” policies allow its employees to work at any location at their discretion, resulting in a shift in interconnection and data management requirements conducive for a data democracy. Talent scattered across the globe require low-latency access to data and the ability to share and transfer that data seamlessly between distributed nodes. Remote work will require the support of robust data infrastructure solutions like Equinix Fabric®, Network Edge and Equinix Metal® that can be deployed virtually anywhere without hardware or additional equipment.
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Data democratization is an ongoing process that broadens access to data and facilitates employees to find, access, self-analyze and share data without additional support. This provides an opportunity for employees and data users to be transformed into citizen data scientists who are able to provide unique perspectives and valuable insights.
Organizations must shift from a data silo mindset where ownership of data and analysis is solely in the hands of a few specialists to one that is digitally integrated and dynamic. A study by Accenture found that cloud-based, mobile data analytics were essential for driving collaboration remotely, with 64% of companies experiencing higher levels of efficiency after leveraging data analytics and improving data literacy.
Cybersecurity and Privacy Concerns When Sharing Data
While the benefits of data democratization continue to emerge over time, there are accompanying obstacles digital leaders must take note of. Data democratization inevitably leads to dispersed data at multiple systems, servers and user accounts. This presents a challenge for enterprises, teams and individuals to strike a balance between stringent data security and allowing for flexible, open collaboration.
When different cross-functional or remote teams work on the same data in a decentralized manner internally or externally, a lack of close communication could lead to duplicated insights and most importantly – breaches in data privacy. Each organization has its own level of access control and with data democratization, difficulties arise when defining which data sets are meant to be open and to whom – or conversely, remaining in a closed-loop system. There are still questions about how much access should be given to employees and the compromising risks if proprietary data gets leaked. One of the main criticisms of data democratization comes in the form of the potential misuse of data. Without appropriate training, employees poorly versed in data management can easily misinterpret data and make erroneous assumptions, potentially sharing data that is meant to be kept within departments or organizations. The problem is further exacerbated in industries like healthcare and government where unintentional, incorrect decisions can have disastrous consequences.
As remote working moves organizations to a more democratized data environment, maintaining security with anonymized data becomes increasingly difficult. Presumably anonymous data could be exposed by malicious actors through the correlation of multiple data sources shared on unsecured public platforms. These privacy breaches can occur even when employees believe shared data complies with privacy laws and the ethical, security standards of the company.
A Private Digital Ecosystem Embeds a Foundation for Data Democratization
The journey to the optimal position on the centralized-decentralized data democratization spectrum is unique for every company and will continue to change over time. Prudent data management strategies and education can prevent data misuse while maximizing strategic value from collaboration and data-driven decisions resulting from data democratization. The first step enterprises can take is to opt for data collaboration through a neutral interconnection platform, like Platform Equinix®, where data is securely stored and data exchange is anonymous.
With Platform Equinix, enterprises have full control over data access from the organizational level down to the individual. It provides a private and secure environment for enterprises to share open and anonymous data over interconnected infrastructure. Leveraging the rich ecosystem of Platform Equinix, enterprises can deploy digital services like Equinix Fabric software-defined interconnection and Equinix Metal bare metal as a service to automate interconnection and host network functions.
When organizational data is democratized and backed by a robust digital platform, it promotes knowledge sharing and willingness to accept diversity in new expertise that traditional job functions were not realizing. Enterprises must identify the attributes of data democratization that will help form a data and governance strategy that empowers their employees and promotes agile and accurate decision-making to achieve significant competitive advantage.
Future Implications: Is Data Democratization Here to Stay?
The growing abundance of data opens the door to new collaborations and market expansions driven by data analytics, presenting an opportunity for digital leaders to become more agile and responsive in their business decisions. Data democratization turns data into a crucially valuable resource when firms and their employees apply deeper data insights for decision-making that’s timely and informed.
Inevitably, data democratization will have lasting effects on multiple fronts of corporate governance ranging from evolving human resource roles to post-employment training that empowers employees into being citizen data scientists. Equinix serves as a strategic differentiator for global organizations looking to build the digital infrastructure that supports their data democratization strategies and digitalization journeys.