NESTA: 14 predictions for 2014

NESTA: “Every year, our team of in-house experts predicts what will be big over the next 12 months.

This year we set out our case for why 2014 will be the year we’re finally delivered the virtual reality experience we were promised two decades ago, the US will lose technological control of the Internet, communities will start crowdsourcing their own political representatives and we’ll be introduced to the concept of extreme volunteering – plus 10 more predictions spanning energy, tech, health, data, impact investment and social policy…

People powered data

The growing movement to take back control of personal data will reach a tipping point, says Geoff Mulgan

2014 will be the year when citizens start to take control over their own data. So far the public has accepted a dramatic increase in use of personal data because it doesn’t impinge much on freedom, and helps to give us a largely free internet.

But all of that could be about to change. Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations have fuelled a growing perception that the big social media firms are cavalier with personal data (a perception not helped by Facebook and Google’s recent moves to make tracking cookies less visible) and the Information Commissioner has described the data protection breaches of many internet firms, banks and others as ‘horrifying’.

According to some this doesn’t matter. Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems famously dismissed the problem: “you have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” Mark Zuckerberg claims that young people no longer worry about making their lives transparent. We’re willing to be digital chattels so long as it doesn’t do us any visible harm.

That’s the picture now. But the past isn’t always a good guide to the future. More digitally savvy young people put a high premium on autonomy and control, and don’t like being the dupes of big organisations. We increasingly live with a digital aura alongside our physical identity – a mix of trails, data, pictures. We will increasingly want to shape and control that aura, and will pay a price if we don’t.

That’s why the movement for citizen control over data has gathered momentum. It’s 30 years since Germany enshrined ‘informational self-determination’ in the constitution and other countries are considering similar rules. Organisations like Mydex and Qiy now give users direct control over a store of their personal data, part of an emerging sector of Personal Data Stores, Privacy Dashboards and even ‘Life Management Platforms’. 

In the UK, the government-backed Midata programme is encouraging firms to migrate data back to public control, while the US has introduced green, yellow and blue buttons to simplify the option of taking back your data (in energy, education and the Veterans Administration respectively). Meanwhile a parallel movement encourages people to monetise their own data – so that, for example, Tesco or Experian would have to pay for the privilege of making money out of analysing your purchases and behaviours.

When people are shown what really happens to their data now they are shocked. That’s why we may be near a tipping point. A few more scandals could blow away any remaining complacency about the near future world of ubiquitous facial recognition software (Google Glasses and the like), a world where more people are likely to spy on their neighbours, lovers and colleagues.

The crowdsourced politician

This year we’ll see the rise of the crowdsourced independent parliamentary candidate, says Brenton Caffin
…In response, existing political institutions have sought to improve feedback between the governing and the governed through the tentative embrace of crowdsourcing methods, ranging from digital engagement strategies, open government challenges, to the recent stalled attempt to embrace open primaries by the Conservative Party (Iceland has been braver by designing its constitution by wiki). Though for many, these efforts are both too little and too late. The sense of frustration that no political party is listening to the real needs of people is probably part of the reason Russell Brand’s interview with Jeremy Paxman garnered nine million views in its first month on YouTube.

However a glimpse of an alternative approach may have arrived courtesy of the 2013 Australian Federal Election.

Tired of being taken for granted by the local MP, locals in the traditionally safe conservative seat of Indi embarked on a structured process of community ‘kitchen table’ conversations to articulate an independent account of the region’s needs. The community group, Voice for Indi, later nominated its chair, Cath McGowan, as an independent candidate. It crowdfunded their campaign finances and built a formidable army of volunteers through a sophisticated social media operation….

The rise of ‘extreme’ volunteering

By the end of 2014 the concept of volunteering will move away from the soup kitchen and become an integral part of how our communities operate, says Lindsay Levkoff Lynn
Extreme volunteering is about regular people going beyond the usual levels of volunteering. It is a deeper and more intensive form of volunteering, and I predict we will see more of these amazing commitments of ‘people helping people’ in the years to come.

Let me give you a few early examples of what we are already starting to see in the UK:

  • Giving a whole year of your life in service of kids. That’s what City Year volunteers do – Young people (18-25) dedicate a year, full-time, before university or work to support head teachers in turning around the behaviour and academics of some of the most underprivileged UK schools.
  • Giving a stranger a place to live and making them part of your family. That’s what Shared Lives Plus carers do. They ‘adopt’ an older person or a person with learning disabilities and offer them a place in their family. So instead of institutional care, families provide the full-time care – much like a ‘fostering for adults’ programme. Can you imagine inviting someone to come and live with you?…

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