Effective data sharing requires that each partner has clarity on the objectives, use cases, input required, and expected output of the initiative. This is paramount to define value distribution. However, many successful initiatives continuously innovate in order not only to achieve but also to evolve and strengthen their value proposition over time. The experience from these initiatives suggests that (a) data sharing can be a catalyst for innovation but also that (b) focusing on innovation is often an incentive that keeps partners engaged and encourages new partners to join.

Data innovation and research efforts in the context of data sharing can lead to the development of data products (or data goods), understood as methods, solutions, and tools produced by one organization that can be successfully used by others. Initiatives often create data products that are accessible to different extents, i.e., they can give free public access to some data goods while restricting access to others so that only data partners can benefit from them. In some cases, in fact, monetization of the data goods is considered a strategy for financial sustainability, so it is in the interest of the initiative to put the data goods behind a paywall. This is an approach taken by the California Data Collaborative — only members have access to data products. In other cases, where other financial sustainability mechanisms are in place, data products are considered public goods and made broadly available. Generally, data products are part of the value distribution among partners when their access is restricted but not necessarily when they are open access.

Production of and access to data goods

The Development Data Partnership created and maintains a marketplace for different types of data goods. The marketplace includes accessible code repositories for derived data products and algorithms. For example, temporal maps (instead of household surveys) were used by the World Bank in 2020 within a project to understand the digital divide in Ukraine. This approach was shared as a data good on the marketplace and later replicated by other partners of the initiative in projects in South America and Africa. In the case of the Development Data Partnership, data goods are shared with all partners but not made available more broadly to the development community. 

Other initiatives, in accordance with their primary aim, grant universal access to their data goods. For instance, the Global Forest Watch, an online platform that provides data and tools for monitoring forests, provides open access to various tools and data goods, such as the new Radar for Detecting Deforestation, which detects forest disturbances using satellite-based radar data. Global Forest Watch needs maximum dissemination of data to achieve its goal of stopping illegal deforestation and unsustainable activities in forests by empowering policymakers and affected communities to monitor the state of their forests and develop appropriate policy responses for threats. Restricting access to the data goods would be counterproductive to achieving this ambitious objective.