“Data is the new oil,” they say. And you may be rolling your eyes at this moment because you’ve heard this statement said too many times, but allow me to entertain the thought for a couple more mouse-scrolls.

Today, oil is a power source for multiple large industries such as transportation, construction, and manufacturing. In 2017, oil was a $1.7 trillion market. Similarly, data is the fuel for decisions regarding capital allocation, go-to market strategy, product, and company partnerships (ML models output decisions too). The market capitalization of data is difficult to quantify.

Oil is also a commodity. There exists a market in which buyers and sellers of oil come together to trade it, and through this activity, they settle on a price of exchange. Different companies use oil to transform it into different business outputs, and these companies, whether public or private, are traded at a particular price. Similarly, data is collected and transformed by different companies into various outputs, and companies that can collect more of it and transform it into more productive outputs are traded at more favourable prices.

Where does oil get its energy from? Oil’s energy comes from organic matter (plankton) buried deep within the earth, which originally got its energy from the sun. Essentially, oil is “liquid sun”. As for data, it can come from anywhere or anyone. Whether it’s a selfie, a transaction log, or the market sentiment on the housing market - all of this is fair game.

The fact that oil and data actually share this many similarities should make it clear that a market for data, much like there is a market for oil, isn’t a completely far-fetched idea. And if there is a market, concepts such as price, value, ownership and property rights need to be explored in the context of data.