Customer data is at the core of every enterprise in Kenya and it is guarded jealously especially when enriched with additional parameters that give visibility to the very nature of the customer. The cost of data collection, storage and constant sanitization adds up over time increasing its value and the lengths to which enterprises are willing to widen the moat around their prized possession.
An issue that I see coming to the fore as we press forward the consumption of services digitally, is a drive by the consumer to control what flavor of data their service providers have, with the ability to edit or even purge their records when they are no longer patrons of the business. This will be a tough call when it happens since we have such feather weight guidelines on the management of consumer data. Layered on that is the fact there currently exists no core block from which businesses can build on and have custom forks where they would append the parameters pertinent to them without having to duplicate effort and throw away good capital that could probably be put to better use.
The government comes up as the first point of action for this role but the thought is quickly challenged by the question of capacity and perception. Would the government in its current structure be capable of maintaining this core block or should that task, as well as that of crafting sustainable business models be left a consortium of citizen contractors from the private sector?
The Communication Authority of Kenya has what would arguably be termed as the most accurate top level KYC data of the productive Kenyan population, but under lock and key its value is lost and unless it is to be appropriately exposed and integrated with control, it will decay with time. The Public Key Infrastructure project that would form part of the solution ecosystem we seek is moving slower than most would like it to, having been in pilot at the Kenya Revenue Authority – yet another source of data on productive Kenyans.
No hard and fast answers today as both options have pros and cons that would need to be analyzed and a compromise arrived at. We need to start preparing for that eventual future when customers who are also citizens demand for more control over their personal datasets – the content and ways in which it is shared and value extracted.