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By Janeiro Digital | November 4, 2021

In episode 6 of The Decentralized Web podcast, Jonathan Bingham is joined by Paul Henninger, Head of Lighthouse and Partner at KPMG. Lighthouse is KPMG’s data analytics and engineering team that develops data and artificial intelligence solutions for businesses. During the conversation Paul explains the concept of ‘the digital self’ in a world driven by data and explores decentralization’s key role in tackling the problem of interoperability across healthcare systems, and how this can provide better care for patients and even give birth to new industries. 

The Digital Self

The digital self can be described as the data people leave behind on the internet. Most of this data is produced and stored in centralized systems. Now however, the average citizen is cognisant of the way their data is stored and shared. In fact, people are not only aware that their digital self exists, but increasingly people are much more intentional about the data they share. In the past it was very difficult for consumers to have any control over the data they left behind, now it is common for companies to ask its users about what data they would like to share, and how.

The Problem of Centralized Data – For Consumers and Organisations

In the digital age large organisations collect masses of data, while people are cautious of the data they give away, they also desire optimized experiences. This leaves organisations to decide whether to collect data universally to maximize the potential benefits for their users, or to limit the data they collect to appease privacy worries. Social media companies like Facebook are infamous for changes to their privacy policy, this is an example of the movement towards the new model of the digital self. Consumers can now dictate their privacy settings, the data they’d like to share and what services they would like to receive from sharing their data. If the user is not satisfied they retain the right to rescind their consent. Decentralization allows people to take back ownership of their data and choose their experience on the internet.

The Benefits of Decentralization

Centralization has been a barrier to realizing the benefits of innovation. The problem lies in the fact that centralized systems collect data in one place. The main pain point for organisations is to get the right data at the right time. The solution for this problem is a decentralized system where people can choose what data they give out, and the time the other party receives it. The simplicity of letting people own their data solves many problems that large organisations face. Decentralization avoids issues that come with selecting the right technology to handle data, or security issues caused by having data stored in one place

Trusting People with Data

The question of whether society at large should trust people to own and manage their data has no straightforward answer. It is true that decentralization will have unintended consequences, such as a person only willing to share data within a niche community. In a centralized system this person’s data would be more accessible. However, decentralization is about giving people control, it provides people a middle ground between opting into a completely centralized system versus having no digital presence at all. Decentralization requires trust from institutions that the public are capable of controlling their own data and that this is desirable for people, and for organisations.

Healthcare Data and Decentralization

One use case for decentralized data systems is in healthcare. A contemporary example is the current backlog of care facing NHS trusts in the UK due to the pandemic. If patients carried around their own data they could travel between trusts and see different healthcare professionals, this would remove the pain for providers when it comes to accessing patient data from a centralized system. Practically for a patient this would include less form filling, and for hospitals it would improve interoperability and the diffusion of data. The NHS Data Saves Lives strategy perfectly exemplifies this approach. In order to improve health outcomes at a population level the public must take control of their health, and this now necessitates that they should have control over their health data.


To find out more about linked data and decentralization in healthcare, listen to the full podcast episode.

Guest: Paul Henninger | LinkedIn | Twitter





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