Trade-offs of data collection and digitalization in cooperatives

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Johtamisen laitos
Degree programme
Global Management
64 + 13
In an increasingly digitalizing world, the importance of data is becoming progressively more evident. With data even being described by some as the ‘new oil’, there is a rising importance placed on data. Through this new value attached to data, comes along a multitude of new questions and considerations. As with digitalization, not everyone benefits equally from datafication. The reasoning behind how and why data is being collected becomes increasingly more critical as data is used to make important decisions – thus creating the acute need for proper data governance. Cooperatives are member-driven organizations where decisions are made democratically. The purpose of cooperatives is to enhance members lives, economically, socially, and culturally (International Cooperative Alliance, 2023). Cooperatives are seen as an alternative to more traditional corporations, thus with the increasing value of data the need to cooperatives to diversify into the the digital sphere emerges. In this thesis, trade-offs that cooperatives operating in settings with low digital literacy make when digitalizing and using data are explored. The thesis aims to reflect on the implications of the different trade-offs identified through both existing literature as well as semi-structured interviews conducted with individuals working at cooperative federations. The digital divide affects ability to participate in many digital and thus data-related activities, however digitalization of cooperatives is seen as a solution to this. Although benefits of cooperatives using data were many, risks highlighted were primarily related around informed consent, lack of resources, relevance of the data selected for collection, the burden of time taken, and the security of the data itself. Meanwhile, benefits identified were greater access to information, increased sense of agency, potential for entrepreneurship in the digital sphere, improved decision-making, and poten- tial to learn and educate more about the benefits of data and digitalization.
Thesis advisor
Shulist, Patrick
digital divide, data governance, cooperatives, cooperative federations, data
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