World Economic Forum launches roadmap for safe cross-border data flows

By on 17/06/2020
The roadmap is intended to help countries design policies which balance the benefits and risks of international data flows. (Image by 272447 via Pixabay).

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has launched a “roadmap” to encourage policymakers and governments to legislate for safe data-sharing practices across international borders.

Developed in partnership with the Bahrain Economic Development Board, the Roadmap for Cross-Border Data Flows, published on 9 June, sets out a series of recommendations drawing on best practice around the world.

“Creating effective policy on cross-border data flows is a priority for any nation that critically depends on its interactions with the rest of the world through the free flow of capital, goods, knowledge and people,” the authors write.

The authors argue that while data-hungry technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain gather pace, “we are witnessing a proliferation of policies around the world that restrict the movement of data across borders”. Such policies, they say, pose “a serious threat to the global digital economy, and to the ability of nations to maximise the economic and social benefits of data-reliant technologies”.

Information-sharing

To combat this, the roadmap sets out six recommendations to promote innovation in data-intensive technologies and enable data collaboration at the regional and international levels.

Under the heading “establishing the building blocks of trust”, the paper advises governments to allow data to flow by default, only allowing data localisation in very specific circumstances; legislate for data protection; and prioritise cybersecurity in line with international norms.

Recommendations four and five aim to incentivise cooperation between nations. This can be promoted by establishing mechanisms to hold governments accountable for the security and confidentiality of the data they share, the report says. There should also be a focus on organisations’ technical ability to move their data or combine it with collaborators in other countries. Recommendation five says the development of connectivity infrastructure such as 5G should be prioritised, and promotes data interoperability, portability and recording of provenance.

The final recommendation is for policymakers is to future-proof international data-sharing policies.

“Empowering governments to adopt robust but safeguarded cross-border data sharing policies is of critical importance to ensure that economies do not get left behind in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” the report concludes.

While the authors concede there is “no one-size-fits-all approach”, given that “every inter country relationship is unique,” they say that by “considering a common set of policy levers – as represented in the Roadmap – nations can feel confident that they are engaging in the relevant analysis needed to both build trust with their counterparts in the digital economy space and facilitate their own domestic data economy.”

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

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