Business owners are giving away their most powerful advantage to corporations. It doesn't have to be this way.
COVID-19 has exposed how fragile our communities have become, and the weak ground on which we expect our small business owners to build. If we really mean to build back better, then we need to prioritize the revitalization of our communities by trusting them with more resources and the independence to decide what to do with them. We can start by giving them back ownership of the single most valuable resource in our economy: our data.
Data works by revealing information about ourselves. Over the last twenty years, government has allowed the creation of businesses, especially technology companies, that make money using our data. They don’t ask for your permission to do this. What you do, who you know, what you like, what you don’t like, what you said yesterday, what you said twenty years ago, this all belongs to them. They know more about you than you do. This is where power comes from today, and it comes from your data.
If small businesses owned their own data, and pooled it with others in the local area, owners could realize new growth, lower costs, and the sort of benefits that make it possible to pay a livable wage, attract reliable workers and make a difference in their community. Consumers are people and they have to live somewhere, so why not use that fact to local advantage? Instead of consumers giving away their data to big corporations, let’s give them the choice of how they use it, and give small business owners a fighting chance. Consider some examples of what local data could do for local business owners:
- New growth - using local data, owners could scan the contracts available from local institutions and match them to small businesses which supply those services; using local census and foot-traffic data, owners could use a map to locate the customers who are most likely to want to buy their product and make plans to reach them.
- Lower costs - chain stores and big box retailers beat Main Street stores by offering more convenience at a lower cost. They achieve this by using the data their customers generate to extract bigger concessions from their suppliers. By pooling data about what they want to buy, owners can participate in bulk orders at cheaper prices. The same goes for other essential services like banking, insurance and healthcare.
- Better local connections - every community runs on connections. Many of them work by word of mouth and local reputation. This is one way to do it. Unfortunately new owners or owners located away from the main strip can struggle to get plugged in to these networks.
Facebook and Nextdoor are one way to spread the network, but they sell your data to advertisers who bombard you with ads. Better to have a social network where the data benefits you and your customers with better connections rather than more distractions.
If we want to build back better, if we’re really serious about it, we have to act like we mean it. This means giving communities and business owners more power to succeed. The good news is that we don’t have to wait for government to get a clue, or for corporations to back off. We can build networks that work for local communities by giving them the power to make better decisions and access more resources.
Our data is the most valuable asset in the economy, it seems insane for us to give it away for the convenience of the home delivery and low-low prices which kill local business and ruin the social fabric. It’s worth much, much more than that, and it belongs to you. So claim it. That’s what we’re here to do.