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Ronald Damhof

I have been a BI/DW practitioner for more than 15 years. In the last few years, I have become increasingly annoyed - even frustrated - by the lack of (scientific) rigor in the field of data warehousing and business intelligence. It is not uncommon for the knowledge worker to be disillusioned by the promise of business intelligence and data warehousing because vendors and consulting organizations create their "own" frameworks, definitions, super-duper tools etc.

What the field needs is more connectedness (grounding and objectivity) to the scientific community. The scientific community needs to realize the importance of increasing their level of relevance to the practice of technology.

For the next few years, I have decided to attempt to build a solid bridge between science and technology practitioners. As a dissertation student at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, I hope to discover ways to accomplish this. With this blog I hope to share some of the things I learn in my search and begin discussions on this topic within the international community.

Your feedback is important to me. Please let me know what you think. My email address is Ronald.damhof@prudenza.nl.

About the author >

Ronald Damhof is an information management practitioner with more than 15 years of international experience in the field.

His areas of focus include:

  1. Data management, including data quality, data governance and data warehousing;
  2. Enterprise architectural principles;
  3. Exploiting data to its maximum potential for decision support.
Ronald is an Information Quality Certified Professional (International Association for Information and Data Quality one of the first 20 to pass this prestigious exam), Certified Data Vault Grandmaster (only person in the world to have this level of certification), and a Certified Scrum Master. He is a strong advocate of agile and lean principles and practices (e.g., Scrum). You can reach him at +31 6 269 671 84, through his website at http://www.prudenza.nl/ or via email at ronald.damhof@prudenza.nl.

There is something going on for some time now, decades even. It all started with the arrival of the Internet where people voluntarily contributed data to, well, everyone who was interested. Data about themselves, their relationships, their adventures, their careers. This data was shared with consent of the owner of the data - although not everyone knew what the data was used for. So one might say that there was consent, but not informed consent.

Lets take it a step further and imagine....

What if our data  - generated by others - was given back to us and we could consent in an informed manner, that we wish to share this data for the greater good? For example; my tax information is my data, it is about me and I want to decide whether or not others can use this data. Or, suppose I can get a hold ofmy location/GPS data, showing all my movements. Or my point of sale data from the grocery store, showing my eating patterns. Suppose I can even get a hold of the data of the last MRI I took, my genome data or the data of my last blood test or even the data of a clinical test I was in?


What if I could decide to contribute this data (consensually) for the public good, where my privacy was Freedom-road-signstill being honoured? What if dozens of people would decide that? What if millions of people would decide that? Clinical research would never be the same again. We would be able to scan for patterns in seas of data consisting of environmental data and healthcare data. No more clinical trials with just 2000 people and ever-increasing smarter statistics. In this setting the healthcare specialists, the quants, the sociologists and the behavioural scientists would have an unprecedented test bed of data. Is there a correlation (or even causality) between aspects of travelling, career, eating patterns, social status and cancer? Suppose even several generations would contribute their data; what would that mean for clinical research? Mindblowing.... 

In the above I discussed data that was about myself and so I should be the one who should decide whether or not to share. But what about data that is ours? The government heavily sponsors research in many countries. Research on biology, behavioural science, economic science, climate science etc.. Shouldn't the data generated by this research be public domain? I think it should...

What about data created by government - which is us. Data about im- and export movements, data regarding employment, schooling, law enforcement, crime, etc.. 


What would this democratization of data mean with regard to innovation? I think it would truly ignite a burst of possibilities and a huge potential for our general wellbeing. And no - I am not referring to the challenge of marketing handbags to middle age ladies (quote somewhat paraphrased from Neil Raden).

No, set the data free to go for the real challenges we face; decreasing poverty, climate control, improving healthcare, scarcity of resources, economic stability and decreasing crime.

This blogpost is hugely inspired by John Wilbanks - google the guy (!) -, all the Open Data initiatives of the world where governmental agencies free up their data, the technological possibilities of data storage, data deployment, data enrichment, data visualization and advanced analytics and finally...this blog is inspired by a deeply felt wish and conviction that our field of knowledge (data management and data utilisation) can make a contribution to a better place for us to live in.

Posted January 4, 2013 8:50 AM
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