The government's warning shot over Midata presents an interesting challenge for some of the UK's institutions. But will it make them focus on solving consumers' problems - transforming them into 'facilitators'? Or will they merely continue to solve their own problems at consumers' expense?
The government wants the suppliers of energy, mobile phones, current accounts and credit cards to provide each of their consumer and small business customers with the records of what they bought, where and for how much. That transaction data must be released in computer-readable format to enable it to be analysed, either by the customer or the customer's authorised service provider. This would help prevent those suppliers from gaining an unfair pricing advantage over consumers, for example, and make it easier for consumers to figure out the product right for them.
Factors the government might consider in deciding whether to expand the programme to other sectors include:
- the market is not working well for consumers, e.g. consumers find it difficult to make the right choice or their behaviour affects pricing it's difficult to predict that behaviour;
- there's a one-to-one, long-term relationship between the business and the customer, with a stream of ongoing transactions;
- consumer engagement is limited, e.g. low levels of switching or competition; and
- suppliers don't voluntarily provide transaction/consumption data to customers at their request in portable electronic format.
Yet these factors merely hint at the characteristics that an organisation should display if it is to succeed in the future economic environment. In broad terms, the targeted institutions will need to be organised to solve their customers’ problems, operate openly, adapt well to changing circumstances, remain committed to transparency and take responsibility for the impact of their activities on the wider community and society. I've explained these themes in more detail here.
The current targets of this programme have a long way to go!
I should add that I am involved in the Midata programme, as a member of the Interoperability Board and on the working groups considering issues related to data transmission and law/regulation.