The G20, Japan, and global data governance

The G20, Japan, and global data governance

25/06/19

Edward Danks, Content Producer

Digital data is increasingly understood to function as the “new oil” in the global economy. However, debate on how to manage this valuable resource at the international level has been limited. It is this issue that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes to resolve at the upcoming G20, held in Osaka on 28 June.

In recent decades, governments have been able to follow their own paths when it comes to digital and data governance, a process which has led to much policy divergence. Recently, driven by data nationalism and concerns over national security, some governments have been putting up protectionist barriers that limit the flow of data across borders. In order to halt this process and to ensure that the numerous benefits of the data driven economy are felt by all, the global community must come together to develop open rules for the global digital economy.

With the US shying away from any leadership role despite its dominance in the tech industry, Prime Minister Abe has stepped up, raising the issue at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year. During his speech, Abe set out his ambitions to make the G20 summit in Osaka the starting point for the establishment of world-wide data governance.

Data governance refers to the rules and standards dictating the collection, processing and storage of data. Any form of global data governance would have to address concerns surrounding national security, individual privacy and intellectual property, whilst still ensuring the free, borderless flow of useful data.

Businesses are aware of the wide-ranging opportunities offered by the new digital, data-fuelled era. However, unless a global governance structure can be established, there is a risk that restrictive national policies will limit the vast economic potential of data.

This move by Prime Minister Abe is in line with Japan’s increasingly confident role in global governance and demonstrates its commitment to strengthening the global trading system through deepening trade linkages and advancing global standards. Whilst the path ahead for global data governance will not be straightforward, Japan’s leadership is welcome and needed.