Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella has urged government’s to play a greater role in controlling and protecting the use of citizens’ personal data, saying policy makers need to catch up to commercial operators in taking advantage of data.
Appearing at an Institute of Public Administration Australia event in Canberra alongside former Telstra CEO David Thodey, Mr Nadella took a question from national data commissioner commissioner Deborah Anton about how government could make greater use of citizens’ data across departments, without pushing too hard and losing public trust.
Mr Nadella had spoken at an Australian Financial Review Chanticleer lunch event on Wednesday, where he had explained the business models of technology platforms like Microsoft’s Azure Cloud and aggregators like the Amazon marketplace, which make use of large amounts of consumers’ data.
He told the Canberra Parliament House audience that government’s needed to exercise control of data policy with a similar skill and policy framework as the private sector experts.
“If you start with the premise that this fourth industrial revolution is all about data and its dividend, then the real policy question in front of us is, how is that dividend being distributed? In other words, what’s the value exchange?” Mr Nadella said.
“In the case of citizens’ data … are they getting better health care, better credit, better access to education, public services because of their data being used to deliver those?”
With citizens’ data was already being used very effectively for commercial means he said policies needed to be in place from government to achieve more balance in favour of public service.
“It has always stunned me as to why do nation states not have control over their own citizen’s data, whereas companies have?” Mr Nadella said.
“It’s just kind of one of the strangest things and, you know, maybe one of these days I’ll come to Australia and you’ll have more of a policy where you have the ability to arbitrate on that.”
Ms Anton is currently responsible for the implementation of a consumer data right in Australia, whereby citizens have the right to access the data that businesses hold on them. This has started with Open Banking and will soon include telecommunications and energy companies.
Microsoft has made great strides in winning business off the Federal Government in Canberra in recent times, for its Azure cloud business.
Earlier this month Microsoft beat AWS to a $US15 billion contract to provide the United States Department of Defence with cloud services for its Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure Cloud (JEDI,) which was part of a plan to make the Pentagon more technologically agile.
A Defence spokesperson told The Financial Review that there is currently no similar initiative planned in Australia for Microsoft and AWS to tussle over.
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Paul Smith leads the The Australian Financial Review’s technology coverage and has been a leading writer on all areas of the sector for almost 20 years. He covers big tech, how businesses are using technology, fast growing start-ups, telecommunications and national innovation policy. Connect with Paul on Twitter. Email Paul at email@example.com