The use of data has revolutionised how countries, companies, societies, and individuals interact and work to maximise positive outcomes. This points to the urgent need for industries to access, embrace and leverage the power of technology to remain relevant in a rapidly changing world. The frenzied scramble to do so has exposed cracks in governance, highlighting critical questions that have no clear answers, as of now.

Fortune India sat down with a panel of tech experts comprising; Prakash Mallya, VP and MD, sales and marketing group, Intel India; Srikanth Velamakanni, co-founder, group chief executive and vice-chairman, fractal analytics; and Keshav Murugesh, group CEO, WNS Global Services & chairman, NASSCOM for a roundtable discussion to explore issues influencing the widespread adoption of data democratisation. Here are some interesting excerpts from the over an hour-long discussion:

“I don’t think data analysts alone can anymore be allowed to handle data of a corporation. (With) all the change that is happening, you need to have a much larger pool of people, everyone in the company, who can access, organise, crunch and interpret data, in order to provide the right level of support to an end customer," Keshav Murugesh, Group CEO, WNS Global Services and chairman, NASSCOM said during the roundtable discussion.

Srikanth Velamakanni, co-founder, group chief executive, and vice-chairman, Fractal AnalyticsData said that because data is all-pervasive, it can drive better, faster, cheaper decisions in current uncertain, complex, and volatile times. "Think about the kind of data explosion that is taking place. In the last 5 years, machines are talking to machines way more than humans are talking to humans and the amount of data being generated is massive, amazing. In this complex world, with so much data being generated, we are missing a huge opportunity to make better decisions if we don’t use data,” he says.

Evidently, start-ups and tech giants have the potential to leverage digital data to innovate and thrive. But, India needs the support of three important gears to accelerate impact in this disruptive environment: Infrastructure, skill, and governance.

"Is there enough awareness of what data means? It’s such a valuable asset. Is the usage determined wisely? The consumers who own this data, do they give explicit consent to the use of this data by someone else. You need to create awareness about all of this. Lastly, once you build the skills, can we have some form of mechanism be it governance where there is a balance between usage and ownership of data," points out Prakash Mallya, VP and MD, sales and marketing group, Intel India.

Who owns data, and can it be used legally without a user's knowledge or explicit consent? These are some critical questions demanding clarity to ensure the data and technology does not create an unequal and divisive society.

"As an industry body what we have done as NASSCOM is to make sure the right standards and measures are introduced so that first and foremost the data is safe and secure but what is needed is kept with the providers, and what is not required is deleted...the right to use that data lies finally with the owner of that data which is the person generating the data, not someone who accessed it," says Murugesh.

Mallya admits the society has yet to come to a conclusion on what its collective position on data is. "It does require a debate as a society. Industries, individuals and governments have a role to play there, globally, not just in India. How much information gets shared irrespective and how much it is used by industries and governments alike. We have to have a debate before agreeing upon the best model," he adds.

Mallya also said he believes the ownership of data and explicit consent of being able to use that data is very important. "Once it is in the domain of usage, you need to have some form of governance which makes it fair for the entire ecosystem to solve for challenges that are important for the country. It’s never going to be a single conversation, it needs to be an evolving conversation in terms of some frameworks that we build today because the data world will have unintended consequences," he adds.

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