trends

Security Wall: The Value of Information

Stephen Yagielowicz
Recently, the U.K.'s Audit Commission addressed the problems of quality and security in public sector information, publishing a report entitled "Nothing but the truth?" In response, the Information Society Alliance (EURIM) released a summary for political audiences on the need to treat information as an asset in order to prevent it from turning into a liability. The paper, entitled "From Toxic Liability to Strategic Asset: Unlocking the Value of Information," includes a supplemental micro-site of resources.

According to EURIM, the alliance brings together politicians, officials and industry to help improve the quality of policy formation, consultation, scrutiny, implementation and monitoring in support of the creation of a globally competitive, socially inclusive and democratically accountable information society. It works across all boundaries to help set the agenda, stage constructive debate and report on progress.

"Treating information as the very valuable asset it increasingly is, provides a 'win-win' situation," Professor Jim Norton, the group's chair, offered. "It helps establish a culture where information is valued and exploited appropriately and at the same time provides the incentives for a more responsible approach to security and quality."

Dave Waltho, Head of Government Affairs, Public Sector (SAS), along with Professor Chris Higson of London Business School, produced the report.

"What we don't value, we don't take care of," Waltho said. "All organizations acknowledge the importance of measuring, protecting and optimizing the potential value of pounds or property, yet most do not apply the same disciplines to their information — a strategic asset of at least equal importance."

According to Waltho, a follow up paper will examine in more detail how organizations can measure and monitor the value of their information and explore why CFOs need to take more ownership of this process.

Among the summary's findings, key points included the need for stakeholders to treat information as a valuable asset or it will become a toxic liability; the realization that the quality of service delivery correlates with the quality of information management; and how treating information as an asset changes its visibility, approach and achievable benefits.

The report also recommends that Parliament should require impact assessments covering any new information systems or the innovative use of existing ones — with those for new systems including clear statements as to why these would be better and less costly than extending the scope and improving the quality, security and availability of existing systems.

"Compared to a 'security-centric' approach, an 'asset-centric' approach to information management is more likely to succeed in both protecting against abuse and realizing value," the EURIM report finds. "A culture that sees information as the life-blood of the organization, alongside finance, people and property, is more likely to adopt and deploy the disciplines necessary to ensure quality and security."

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