The 2021 Digital Economy Report, published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), pointed to the need for improved global data governance, noting that “existing institutional frameworks at the international level are not fit for purpose to address the specific characteristics and needs of global data governance.” Since that time, the situation, if anything, has become worse. There are still no global frameworks, but technology has continued to march forward, particularly with the advent of generative artificial intelligence (AI) that has caught the world by storm — and by surprise. What was once confined to a specialized domain has now permeated the daily lives of ordinary users, entangling with our routines and activities. Yet there are no coherent guardrails in place, no user-friendly manuals, and no national or global standards or regulations.
This situation is similar to, and just as troubling as, the large digital platforms that have played an important role in the lives of countless individuals worldwide, facilitating access to diverse information, communities, cultures and services, but at the same time monetizing personal data with virtually no safeguards. What can be done to improve this situation so that the benefits of these technologies can improve the lives of all while minimizing harms? This session will discuss the latest developments in data and AI governance and provide concrete suggestions on how it can be improved, particularly from an international and multi-stakeholder perspective.