"Whilst privacy is paramount, you can't have a digital economy if everyone is locking their entire digital footprint away” – Katryna Dow
Meeco, short for me-economy or me-ecosystem, recently joined the Support Centre for Data Sharing team for an inspiring and thought-provoking interview. Katryna Dow (founder and CEO) and Jason Smith (Chief Commercial Officer) discussed the company and the solutions they offer, their thoughts on the current digital society, the role of technology therein, and visions for the future.
Meeco provides the infrastructure for citizens, businesses, and organisations to safely collect, protect, and exchange data
The idea for the company’s creation was born out of a sci-fi movie where machines had the ability to read people’s thoughts before they took any action. This scenario served as an inspiration for Meeco, as it portrayed a society that has great digital convenience whilst, at the same time, humans lose their autonomy and control over their decision making because high-tech machines took over.
At the beginning of this century, the world had already seen the creation of the internet, the ability to send e-mails, and search engines and social platforms were on the rise. This was followed by reports from the World Economic Forum and reports discussed the at-the-time abstract concept of digital identity, ultimately manifesting in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). More recently, in 2012, we witnessed the moving of Facebook from desktop to mobile. This increased user’s awareness of their privacy as people realised that their data was being collected.
These developments inspired Meeco’s founders to explore the evolution of a digital self, a type of technological agency as part of the value chain, and what it would mean to have this kind of agency in a hyperconnected world. Ultimately, this led to the creation of a platform that enables privacy by design, does not monetise data, considers regulatory frameworks, and has a transparent business model.
The solutions Meeco provides are implemented directly into the value chain in health, finance, education, or transport
For example, in Belgium Meeco helped create a solution for KBC Bank that enables customers to collect and protect their data inside their personal banking app. Neither the bank nor Meeco has access to that data. In the past banks used to offer a physical vault for protection, as our lives move towards the digital realm, we need digital equivalents that protect us and our information.
Another example is a children’s platforms Meeco designed named mIKs-it. This media plat-form is for children aged 0 - 7 enables children to have access to several sorts of media that are both curated by their parents and detached from the internet. That is, children can explore and play with media without tracking, advertising, or algorithms that track their behaviour. At the same time, it offers parents the opportunity to monitor their child’s digital foot-print closely and not have to worry about “what is coming up next”.
Heading towards the future, Meeco envisions a digital society built on trust and transparency
As we are heading towards a more digital society, which we already witness as a result of the pandemic, our way of working will also become more hybrid. As we have less physical inter-action in the process of working, but also recruiting and on-boarding of new colleagues, trust becomes more and more important. Employers will increasingly have questions like “who are you?”, “should you be at this office?”, and “are you who I expect you to be?”. In this light, digital identity, location, and skills are going become more important and have to be supported in a digital way.
We already see the rise of smart devices. If we have a society that is entirely digital in the future where automated systems take care of actions like closing doors or shutting lights, we need to make sure we have equivalents of autonomy in place in the digital world like we have in the physical world. However, this requires participation from all parties involved and to ensure this you need trust and transparency. Currently, there seems is little trust in large organisations; however, by enabling people to control their data, that trust can grow.
Ultimately, the digital society can become hyperconnected and convenient through technology, yet at the same time regulation and legislation protects individuals’ rights and resources are at hand for when something goes wrong, and people need to reach out.
Building tools that make the exchange of information transparent, equitable, and ethical not only ensures better outcomes, but ultimately leads to a more meaningful and healthy digital society where the trade-off between control and convenience is limited.