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Spotlight on 🔦Bart de Witte🔦

Bart de Witte (he/him) Founder




What does your job actually entail?

During the first three years, I gave myself plenty of time to conduct extensive research on the issue that I wished to resolve. I put over 70 different hypotheses to the test in order to find out what works and what doesn't, and I've been building things since the beginning of this year. Therefore, the majority of what I do consists of talking to people like investors, funders, partners, and policy makers. I'm dusting off some of my previous product management abilities now that we're working on constructing a product. I also give lectures in addition to writing.

When not at work you can be found...

At home with my family. I am an early adopter on technology, but was a late adopter on family planning. I recently became a father of a boy and a daughter and am enjoying my new role as a father.

Why did you join the DSxHE community?

I find it important to bribe between the different spheres. I run a community myself of physicians, AI researchers and software engineers. We are working on open source AI, as I think it could become the biggest multiplication for health equity.


What’s your interest in data science and/or health equity?

Machine Learning or in general AI Technologies are a game changer in healthcare. But it’s a double edged sword. It will be able to increase inequalities in health or it can massively reduce them. I oppose the idea of equalling data as capital, as I believe that in this narrative data accumulation will always follow capital concentrations. This leads to information asymmetries that are the base of inequalities. I am working with a group on new copyleft data licenses. Such data licenses could create 100% open eco-systems that compete with the closed systems we see today.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies, in general, are transforming the healthcare industry. The problem is that it cuts both ways. In terms of health, it will either significantly exacerbate existing disparities or make them much easier to overcome. My position is that data should not be equated with capital since, as according to this interpretation, the accumulation of data will always follow the concentration of capital. This results in information asymmetries, which are the foundation of social disparities. New copyleft data licenses are now being discussed by a group that I am a part of. The closed systems that are in use now could be challenged by completely open eco-systems that could be created using such data licensing. I have seen it happening 30 years ago in forward, I believe we can repeat that success.

What’s a recent article/book/video/blog/event you’ve come across on data science and/or health equity that you found interesting and why?

Capitalising a Cure from Victor Roy. It gives readers a deeper insight into the power of financial markets over business, biomedicine and public health. It focusses on molecules and Pharma. When the readers replaces the molecules with data and trained AI-models, he will discover that we are repeating exactly the same mistakes that lead to the creation of BigPharma.


What is the best advice you ever received?

After having worked 20 years in global leadership roles, my wife told me to believe in myself and my own ideas. Since I followed that advice, my life has been way more challenging, but as well way more interesting.

If you were to write a book, what would it be about?

Actually, I'm in the process of writing a book right now, and it's about the conundrum of health prevention and the impact of surveillance capitalism, both of which have the potential to result in a health dictatorship. In the first five chapters, we take an in-depth look at the ideas that have been proposed by many academics, including Armin Nassehi, Shushing Zuboff, Nick Couldry, Jürgen Habermass, and Joseph Stigliz, amongst others. Later on, I will discuss digital health systems as well as the economy of platforms, and in the final few chapters, I will introduce the reader to the realm of open-sourced digital healthcare as well as open collaboration and innovation networks. My twenty years of experience in the industry have provided me with a wealth of relevant examples and anecdotes that I will share.

What world record do you think you have a shot at beating?

The Guinness World Record registered a record of 70,000 people registering to donate blood within 24 hours, I want to beat that record, but instead of blood, I want to collect health data donations that we can turn into anonymised data commons that are protected with a copyleft license.

This is a provocative picture - I know - but after having tried “my boobs are not for sale” that we produced for our breast cancer campaign - I learned that it needs more provocation.


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