Learning to work together
When groups share their digital technologies, insights and breakthroughs, sustainability initiatives can thrive. Data pools get more extensive and more accurate. IoT sensors and other data sources can feed into multiple projects. Different technologies can integrate into a shared infrastructure for interoperability.
But this isn’t the way most industries and groups are used to working – and that means there are several barriers to overcome to make this collaborative future a reality.
1. Cultural and organisational
In industries and disciplines built on intellectual property and with the constant need to be first to market, collaboration doesn’t always come naturally.
For many groups, there will be concerns about the risks of sharing information with potential competitors – particularly in sustainability efforts, which often include major innovations and novel technologies.
Overcoming this hurdle will be difficult. Building up trust will take time, but setting mutually agreed ground rules for how intellectual property is managed, while enabling data sharing for the public good, will go a long way to creating the foundation for a collaborative future.
2. Legal and regulatory
Restrictions on data sharing and storage have tightened in recent years, which can make collaboration across territories more difficult. Some types of information can only be stored under specific conditions – with anonymisation or encryption, for example – while others can’t be moved beyond borders.
Intelligent data management must be at the core of any collaboration effort, and this is a situation where governmental oversight can be particularly useful. With legislators involved in digital projects, all parties can ensure that they are working safely within the boundaries of sovereignty, privacy and storage requirements.
3. Technical and operational
Every organisation approaches its projects a little differently. And that can make it difficult to bring initiatives together neatly.
Often, there’s a lack of interoperability between different datasets and technologies, which can introduce extra tasks for adapting the models organisations use, or updating technical infrastructures. That work – and the costs associated with it – can be off-putting for some groups.
But if we want to move to larger ecosystems with exchangeable data sources to manage the bigger societal challenge, we will require overarching standards for how data should be collected and stored, which basic technologies to use, and how groups should communicate.
This will help set projects up for long-term collaborative success.