Much of today’s international governance systems were established before the rise of modern digital platforms and therefore lack the ability to address these new digital issues. It is becoming increasingly clear that digital technologies are advancing at a rapid pace, and regulators are struggling to keep up. CIGI was founded 20 years ago to address gaps in global governance. As our work progressed, we realized the transformative effects of digital technologies and we chose to focus our efforts in this area. We understood that the impacts of technology were not happening in silos, but rather in crosscutting ways across multiple sectors and regulatory bodies.

We can no longer separate trade and prosperity from intellectual property and data flows; democracy and justice from misinformation and foreign interference; or security and warfare from cybersecurity and cyber theft. This is why CIGI is now focused on identifying gaps in international governance through the lens of digital technologies.

Rohinton Medhora: Look around you: almost everything you do on a day-to-day basis is in some way informed or affected by digital technologies and therefore affected by how we manage them.

Jim Balsillie: In tech governance or digital governance, you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound. So, you either understand it deeply and holistically, or you’re stuck at a superficial level, and to make a contribution both domestically and internationally, we realized we had to go deep there and we did and give it focus because this was not just a vertical element to think about now. It was a horizontal, cross-cutting, principally shaping element in many of the global governance files of our time.

Maureen O’Neil: I think even 15 years ago, we might not have imagined how digital would dominate. Because when you add in — when you think about all of the dimensions of foreign policy, whether it’s trade, whether it’s security, whether it’s defence. You can’t think of one aspect of any of those that digital has not — if not transformed — at least made us think about doing differently.

Mai Mavinkurve: I don’t think anyone can argue that technology has, and is going to continue, to transform our economies and our values. And the heart of that is data. It’s the fuel for AI, for decision making, it’s really going to power the next wave of economic growth.

Giuseppina (Pina) D’Agostino: It’s more important than ever to understand intellectual property and how important it is to the growth of our economy and its sustenance because the majority of our assets are actually made up of intangibles.

Brigitte Vézina: We need to have a fair and balanced IP system if we want the intangibles economy to benefit society as a whole.

Dan Ciuriak: The question is whether Canada will again be, basically, the grunt producing a lot of the coding that is driving value in IP and in big data, which is being captured abroad, or whether Canada will actually be able to capture that higher-end district and appropriate the rents in that area based upon owning the IP, owning the data, controlling the data.

Heidi Tworek: One of the things that makes this moment uniquely challenging, but also exciting if you’re interested in governance innovation, is the many different parts of our lives, the same platform companies are actually affecting. And then figuring out how to grapple with that. And also figuring out how to grapple with the fact that these companies have headquarters in just a few countries, but they’re affecting almost every jurisdiction around the world. So that the main solutions to really understanding how to govern them are going to have to be coordinated internationally.

Aaron Shull: Trade, innovation, intellectual property, cybersecurity, data governance, foreign policy: it’s all linked. And, so, if you take only one lens, you will miss a very, very important part of the conversation. And I think if you take a narrow policy approach, you will be doing yourself a disservice because of the horizontal nature of the policy challenges that we face.

Rt. Hon. Paul Martin: I believe that if we’re going to really persevere, we’ve got to understand that that is understood by most of the rest of the world, and the countries that don’t understand that are going to fall behind. And that, consequently, what we’ve got to do is not simply catch up to the rest of the world; we’ve got to be ahead of the rest of the world.

John English: I think every country needs an international affairs, international governance organization. They’re important. There has to be a non-partisan place for discussion and interpretation and analysis of international events and identifying directions of change, whatever they may be.

Susan Ariel Aaronson: Other think tanks tackle it from, let’s say, an economic angle or a competitiveness angle, but CIGI is probably the only think tank that melds the economic angle with the democracy angle.

Gordon Smith: There are lots of institutes or centres dealing with global issues, dealing with specific issues, but the thing that makes CIGI different is that it focuses on the need for better governance in a particular area.

Thomas Bernes: And I think, where our comparative advantage is, is identifying those new topics when there’s a gap and where we can draw attention to it and help to define the debate for the broader global community. And in that sense, I think, digitization, the digital world is an important topic, so CIGI is right on there.

Melissa Hathaway: I think that CIGI is always over the horizon, scouting for the next issues and can see them ahead of time. And then they’ve already positioned some of the research and have convened some of the really important thought leaders in the different fields. So, I think that CIGI is really always at the forefront of whatever the next cutting-edge problem is going to be or the next great idea.

Jim Balsillie: It’s the greatest privilege to be able to launch a global tech company from Waterloo and a global think tank from Waterloo that is having enormous impact. You know, it brings the greatest smile to my face when I hear CIGI’s work being referenced, and I just think it’s gonna grow and grow and grow.

For media inquiries, usage rights or other questions please contact CIGI.

The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.