A Future Built on Data: Data Strategies, Competitive Advantage and Trust

CIGI Paper No. 266

June 9, 2022

In the twenty-first century, data became the subject of national strategy. This paper examines these visions and strategies to better understand what policy makers hope to achieve. Data is different from other inputs: it is plentiful, easy to use and can be utilized and shared by many different people without being used up. Moreover, data can be simultaneously a commercial asset and a public good. Various types of data can be analyzed to create new products and services or to mitigate complex “wicked” problems that transcend generations and nations (a public good function). However, an economy built on data analysis also brings problems — firms and governments can manipulate or misuse personal data, and in so doing undermine human autonomy and human rights. Given the complicated nature of data and its various types (for example, personal, proprietary, public, and so on), a growing number of governments have decided to outline how they see data’s role in the economy and polity. While it is too early to evaluate the effectiveness of these strategies, policy makers increasingly recognize that if they want to build their country’s future on data, they must also focus on trust.

About the Author

Susan Ariel Aaronson is a CIGI senior fellow, research professor of international affairs at George Washington University and co-principal investigator with the National Science Foundation/National Institute of Standards and Technology, where she leads research on data and AI governance.