The immense amount of data created, captured, and used worldwide today carries an abundance of power.
Although data can harm society through privacy and security risks, such as breaches, fraud, and cyber-attacks, its paramount impact lies in how it can benefit society by closing the massive equity gap worldwide. From increasing access to services to mitigating bias, we’re witnessing how data transforms the delivery of critical services, specifically for the healthtech, fintech, and datatech sectors.
As a follow-up to our 2022 article, Exploring the Intersection of Impact and Data Privacy, we provide an update on the current state of these three key sectors, including the top challenges and opportunities, as well as the data-driven enterprise solutions blazing a trail toward a more equitable and inclusive future.
The global healthcare industry is systematically flawed, plagued by disparities between groups of differing socioeconomic characteristics, such as age, ethnicity, economic resources, gender, or other. For example, life expectancy is 81 years in high-income countries, whereas it’s only 61 years in low-income countries. Unqualified providers, diagnosis and treatment errors, inadequate or unsafe facilities, and complex regulatory and bureaucratic frameworks are other factors contributing to healthcare disparities.
The healthtech sector emerged with the digitalization of the healthcare system, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, more medical data is stored and shared virtually through electronic health records (EHRs), medical devices, wearables, and research studies than ever before. However, health records contain sensitive personal information, making each data point vulnerable to data hacks and breaches. For context, in 2022, every day, an average of 1.94 healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records occurred.
Additionally, fragmented systems between providers, institutions, and sectors lead to inconsistent data collection and sharing practices, especially regarding electronic medical records, medications, labs, etc. In other words, when data gets managed irresponsibly and insecurely, digital solutions have the potential to exacerbate data silos and biases further and, subsequently, further exclusion within the healthcare industry.
Whether targeting the quality of healthcare processes, delivery, or patient outcomes, healthcare data can be used for good through more integration and interoperability. Data can improve access, lower costs, and boost outcomes, ultimately expanding the reach of healthcare services for underserved individuals and communities. New technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), are paving a pathway toward equitably advancing early detection and personalized treatments. Finally, adopting data encryption for digital records has been shown to reduce data breaches.
Data-driven startups are leveraging digital solutions to address inequities by collaborating with healthcare organizations, technology providers, policymakers, and cybersecurity experts, comprehensive strategies, and frameworks. Companies like Los Angeles-based Telebionix monitor daily health for underserved communities in remote areas who would otherwise lack access to services through a clinical-grade, smart, handheld device. MedTrack, based in Accra, is a secure Health Information Management System (HIMS) linking patient data to national biometric identification for universal access to health records. Barangaroo-based Consentic optimizes and streamlines medical consent, enhancing patient/clinician understanding.
Like healthcare, underserved populations face inequitable access to the financial system. Due to economic volatility, systemic risk, regulatory compliance, and unethical practices, over 1.7 billion unbanked people lack access to finance. Financial inclusion is critical not only for individuals, families, and businesses to store money, manage payments and cash flows, generate savings, access credit, and make investments but also for communities, nations, and the entire global system to improve economic opportunities and outcomes.
The rise of fintech – integrating digital technology and finance to enhance financial services, including banking, payments, insurance, investment, and more – is revolutionizing sector operations. However, even when people have access to financial products and services, their data carries the risk of exploitation that can lead to further exclusion. Financial services is the most targeted industry of cyber attacks, which have tripled over the last decade. More than half of the countries in Africa lack laws to protect personal data. And in Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, 106 people gain access to the Internet every second. Additionally, computers with internet access face hacking attempts every 39 seconds. The financial repercussions of such vulnerability are massive, with an organization's average cost to recover from a data breach globally being around US 4.35M, not to mention the loss of consumer trust.
When managed responsibly and securely, 5G, the Internet of Things, blockchain, AI, big data, and other digital solutions can benefit society by improving access to financial services. Through privacy protection, regulatory compliance, inclusive access to data-driven services, and more, digital financial breakthroughs open up new possibilities for people worldwide. Promoting financial inclusion must include protecting data integrity and reinforcing cybersecurity measures.
With the emergence of cryptocurrencies, digital wallets, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending, and more, machine learning technology, big data, cloud computing, and cryptographic methods can lower barriers to access by reducing costs and extending services to the most vulnerable and underserved, while enhancing the physical, data and financial infrastructure.
Once again, startups and entrepreneurs are filling critical inequity gaps toward greater financial inclusion by providing financial services to customers in innovative yet secure ways. Asaak, based in Kampala and Mexico, offers asset financing to marginalized small and medium business owners, assessing borrowers' creditworthiness through behavioral and economic data. Bogota-based Sureti facilitates a marketplace connecting people seeking financing with people wanting to invest. Miami-based Dexy provides unbanked Latin Americans with worldwide bank accounts, cross-border transfers, payments, cards, and other digital money benefits.
Every human action – both digital and non-digital – gets aggregated as a data point. Various organizations (corporations, government, social media platforms, among others) within multiple industries (healthcare, transportation, energy, media, retail, manufacturing, among others) rely on accessing these data points to influence their strategies and growth models. Yet, while the digitalization of data can help stakeholders make decisions, it can also exacerbate global inequities because of the risk of quality and accuracy issues, the creation of a digital divide between those who can access it and those who cannot, worsening bias and discrimination, and control in the hands of few.
Datatech is the development of technological products and services that harness the power of big data analysis, AI, and machine learning algorithms to enhance and optimize various market sectors. These developments help manage large amounts of data by building solutions related to collection, storage, analysis, interpretation, and utilization.
The need for solutions to promote digital inclusion, address biases in data and algorithms, and ensure equitable access to and control over data are critical. Secure data ownership opens the door for cross-collaboration between different organizations (delegated data owners), allowing individual users to access essential services such as healthcare, financial services, among others. Better, more inclusive, impact-focused tech products and services are needed that can leverage secure data ownership to enhance access to vital services while ensuring equitable data usage to mitigate bias and safeguard data privacy.
Startups and entrepreneurs are harnessing the power of datatech and digital advancements, driving the development of data-driven solutions. United Biometrics, based in Paris, is a great example. They specialize in digital authentication solutions across all industries, enabling banks, corporations, and governments to protect their applications, data, and network access. Chicago-based Innovare empowers educational leaders to make data-driven decisions that positively impact students and communities. Seedata, in London helps businesses identify previously undetected data leakage incidents and reduces incident costs.
Since launching the IBM Hyper Protect Accelerator in 2019, Village Capital has supported
200 data-driven startups using highly sensitive data to improve the quality of and access to these critical services. Download our report “Driving Data Transformation: Five Years of Impact with the IBM Hyper Protect Accelerator” to learn more about how entrepreneurs are paving a path toward inclusive services. Together, we can leverage the power of data for good and create an equitable world.
As Regional Director of Europe at Village Capital, Ben works on bringing Village Capital’s tools, network, and methodology to the European region to support mission-driven entrepreneurs and grow the existing impact economy.