The Lighter Side of Information Democracy - InformationWeek
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Software // Information Management
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3/14/2008
04:48 PM
Rajan Chandras
Rajan Chandras
Commentary
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The Lighter Side of Information Democracy

It's time to take a closer look at the increasingly popular catch-phrase "Information Democracy." Some time back, I received a vendor e-mail message promising "information for all" through MDM. But deep contemplation of this important matter (interrupted only by intermittent wakefulness) led me to an astonishing revelation: Information isn't a Democracy, it's...

It's time to take a closer look at the increasingly popular catch-phrase "Information Democracy." Some time back, I received a vendor e-mail message promising "information for all" through MDM. But deep contemplation of this important matter (interrupted only by intermittent wakefulness) led me to an astonishing revelation: Information isn't a Democracy, it's (gasp) Communism!

Information available to all, where you need it, when you need it. That is the promise of Information Democracy, and to be sure, information integration and MDM solutions go a long way in providing this. But this definition ignores two critical factors: Who and Why. Information is not freely available for all, where and when your need it. In fact, data security, provisioning and governance are all specifically aimed at making sure of this. Everyone is not equal in the information they may seek or receive. Information Democracy is a great catch-phrase, but it is also a great fallacy.

But if not a democracy, what is Data?Dictatorship? For the most part, nein! For example, public-owned companies have public ownership of data, so to speak. As do government-owned entities. Nobody, not even the head corporate honcho, has absolute powers over ownership and disposition of data - as many a convicted CEO has discovered to his enduring chagrin.

Theocracy? Good God, no. Data is, in some sense, a god (or goddess) unto itself. We may worship data, but that worship is itself a weakness; it is data that controls us, not the other way around. Pity the poor soul that believes in the absolute veracity of data.

Meritocracy? A meritless proposition. True, organizations have hierarchies, which in turn have different data needs. But while data consumers may be hierarchical, data by its nature is much more egalitarian (even when, ironically enough, it's hierarchically organized). In fact, data sometimes turns meritocracy on its head - there is practically no data visible to the supervisors (at all levels in the corporate hierarchy) that has not already been perused by the subordinates.

Feudalism? Pas du tout. Try as we might, we cannot get data to bow to our whims and fancies. Marie Antoinette's millions could not easily get our data to stay orderly and organized - forget the icing of data quality on the cake of information, you'd better be willing to settle for bread crumbs. There is, after all, a reason why data quality is such a booming business… two words: Endless Entropy. Think Humpty Dumpty, whom all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put together again.

Oligarchy? Now that's an idea. There is certainly no dearth of "data stewards" - official as well as self-appointed - who like to share data about as much as Uncle Scrooge likes to share his dough. Fortunately for everybody, though, hiding data is about as effective as holding water tightly in a fist.

Idiocracy? Hmm… we may have something here. It sometimes seems like data is being populated and managed by idiots, but let's lay off the levity - data is serious business!

To truly understand the nature of data, here's a hint: data is produced (with apologies to Karl Marx) by each according to his ability, and consumed by each according to his need. Of course, there is that little matter of who decides the need, alas, tainted by the touch of Autocracy!

So, there you are. Socialism, Communism… call it what you will, Karl Marx was right after all - well, at least about data, at any rate.It's time to take a closer look at the increasingly popular catch-phrase "Information Democracy." Some time back, I received a vendor e-mail message promising "information for all" through MDM. But deep contemplation of this important matter (interrupted only by intermittent wakefulness) led me to an astonishing revelation: Information isn't a Democracy, it's...

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