Newswise — WASHINGTON (July 13, 2022) — A new report from the George Washington University’s Digital Trade and Data Governance Hub finds that some 68 countries and the European Union struggle to govern various types of data in a comprehensive, democratic and accountable manner. The researchers argue that this failure has huge implications for governance of technologies — such as artificial intelligence and augmented/virtual reality — which comprise the next phase of the internet.
“Although many high income nations have requested public comment and created advisory bodies to advise policymakers on data governance and emerging technologies, they do little to respond to public concerns,” stated Susan Aaronson, director of the Digital Trade and Data Governance Hub and a research professor of international affairs at GW. “Consequently, policymakers will have trouble anticipating problems such as discrimination or disinformation that may arise from the use of these technologies.”
In 2021, the Hub created the world’s first mapping of how 51 nations and the EU govern various types of data at the national and international level. The Hub divides data governance into six attributes: strategies; laws and regulations; structural changes; human rights and ethical guidelines; public participation; and mechanisms for international cooperation. The researchers looked for evidence of government activity to evaluate a country’s comprehensive data governance.
Among the key findings in the 2022 report:
- The United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and France take the most comprehensive approach to data governance at the national and international levels.
- Egypt, Algeria, Botswana, Cuba, and Tanzania are among the countries that are taking baby steps.
- The United States, the world’s leading digital economy, provides an example of divergence between digital prowess and data governance.
- In general, less wealthy nations focus their data governance efforts on structural or regulatory actions to govern data. They do little to ensure that data driven technologies do not undermine internationally accepted human rights or ethical norms.
- Most countries have created advisory committees to govern data and data driven technologies, but these committees are generally composed of academic and business experts.
- Although most countries seek public comment on strategies and proposed laws and regulations related to data, many of these same case study countries do little to change their data governance policies in response to public concerns. The researchers believe this failure has important implications for technologies such as AI.
“The failure to govern data in a democratic and accountable manner will undermine trust in the polity and economy as a whole,” Aaronson said. “Policymakers should think carefully about their strategies, laws, structures and processes.”
About the GW Digital Trade and Data Governance Hub
The Digital Trade and Data Governance Hub was established in 2019 with funding from various foundations in the United States. The Hub is a non-profit research institute affiliated with the George Washington University's Elliot School of International Affairs. Their mission is to provide policymakers, the press, and the public with a greater understanding of data driven change, digital trade and data governance issues and to do research on these topics. The Hub provides free professional trainings, organizes monthly public webinars, creates original research, and hosts a network of digital scholars. To learn more about the Hub and what they do, visit their website at DataGovHub.elliott.gwu.edu