Increasingly, data is regarded as a valuable commodity for economic growth. The advances made in its gathering, storage, manipulation and use for commercial, social and political purposes have outpaced governments’ ability to properly regulate this commodity. For a data-driven economy to operate most efficiently, mass surveillance and collection of data is necessary — but this comes with substantial risk. If some data is missed or left uncollected, then another actor will enter the market and collect it. Governments need to establish national data strategies that govern how data gets collected, who can collect and control that data, and how it can be used. Blayne Haggart’s contribution to CIGI’s essay series, Data Governance in the Digital Age, explores the government’s role in constructing the data-driven economy.
Data is the new oil because it is taking on a central role in the economy. But, unlike oil, data is really something that is created by people. So data itself only takes on value because we decide that it takes on value.
In order for a data-driven economy to work at its most efficient, then you’ve got to basically surveil everything, you’ve got to grab everything. And so this would lead to levels of surveillance and intrusiveness that would be beyond the pale in a liberal democratic society.
In designing a data strategy, a key first step would be to think through, well, what do we value? What do we want to do as a society? What data gets collected? How it gets collected? Who’s able to control it, and for what uses?
It’s a discussion that needs to be had, it needs to be had at much higher levels, by many more people. And I think bringing a whole bunch of people who have thought about these issues together — for instance in this series — is a very valuable contribution.