By Kasper Holst Hansen
After 13 years of working with EduLab (which I founded) and MatematikFessor the time had come to sell the company. I had no prior experience with selling a company but understood that all things need to be in order. The value of having order in our finances were obvious, but it turned out that our focus on data ethics also proved to have a significant value.
It was early days, when we in EduLab started focusing on the data ethics. In fact, I’d say that we helped kickstart this focus within the industry of education in Denmark. It all started when a 9th grade student in the fall of 2015 requested access to the personal data we had stored. This was the beginning of a journey into data ethics, which initially was involuntary.
We handled the request and hereafter investigated future requirements of data processing. Unfortunately, this was both expensive and time consuming, so, I truly understand the many entrepreneurs who knowingly or unknowingly disregard it. But in EduLab we had a culture of compassion and it therefore meant a lot for our employees – the “Fessor people” – that we did our best. Furthermore, we got in contact with the DataEthics think-tank, who were interested in the lack of data ethics in the industry of education. I immediately welcomed them and suddenly I was in a meeting with two experienced women who had a deep understanding of data, legislation and how to create decent digital processes.
For us it was pretty straight forward; we admitted that we were not doing enough in this field and welcomed any advice or guidance, we could get. Deep down I knew that this could cause us problems, but it turned out that we were meet with acknowledgement and a desire to support us. We were guided on how to move forward in a balanced and wise way (here is Edulab’s data ethics policy – in Danish only)
This caused us to work with data ethics as one of the first companies in our industry and we know that we had done our best at protecting kids’ data.
When I sold EduLab to Egmont, our data ethical approach turned out to be important. Egmont naturally cares about supporting decent digital behaviour, and it was wonderful for me to pass on a company that was had taken up data ethics.
When I look back today, I am puzzled that we perceived data ethics as a competitive advantage. It should in stead be a framework for all companies in the industry of education. Unfortunately, it seems that the existing attitude is: “as long as we fulfill a data process agreement, it is enough”. But it is not enough, since this does not guarantee anything. Instead, a yearly external IT revision is something that can make a difference and something that even public clients wants. But this is not standard in our industry.
With the sale of my current life work, I ended my activity in the industry of education. I look back with pride on the 10 years in which MatematikFessor has made new standards for digital learning tools in Denmark. I, and the lovely team who worked in EduLab, know that we genuinely tried our best to be responsible and take data ethics to a new level. We did this, because we were dealing with something very precious to others: their kids and the digital footprint of kids.
Kasper Holst Hansen is a digital entrepreneur and is founding new ventures and investing in start-ups – all with a focus on data ethics
Translated by Signe Agerskov