Daily Management Review

UN calls for a harmonised approach to data management


Approaches to managing data flows and the digital economy as a whole vary widely among leading countries, according to a UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report published yesterday.

Eric Bridiers
Eric Bridiers
For example, the US approach emphasises control by the private sector, Chinese one - by the government and the European Union’s approach by each individual user. The UN is calling for data governance to be moved to a global level and for common rules to be developed, for which it proposes a new coordinating body.

UNCTAD's 2021 report on the digital economy highlights the diverging approaches countries have taken to managing and moving data across borders. The models of the US (private sector control of data), China (control of authorities) and the EU (consent to act on each user's data) are particularly influential in the process. Given the interconnected nature of the global Internet architecture, the future of cross-border data flows should not be determined solely by a small number of major countries, experts say.

In addition to the disengagement of technology leaders and the economic and strategic advantages they gain from controlling data and technology (especially AI), the UN fears the fragmentation of the digital space and the internet and the emergence of isolated data-driven digital economies.

To avoid this, cross-border technical coordination is needed, ideally at the global level. According to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the current fragmented digital landscape can lead to cyberattacks, privacy breaches and other risks.

To coordinate approaches to global data management, UNCTAD proposes creating a new UN international body that would also "increase the representation of developing countries" in this work - otherwise they would simply become suppliers of raw data to global digital platforms, paying for the results of their processing.

source: un.org