Data has been hailed by some as “the new oil,” an analogy that captures the excitement and high expectations surrounding the data-driven economy. The success of the world’s most valuable companies (Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft) is now underpinned by a sophisticated capacity to collect, organize, control and commercialize stores of data and intellectual property. Big data and its application in artificial intelligence, for example, promises to transform the way we live and work — and will generate considerable wealth in the process. But data’s transformative nature also raises important questions around how the benefits are shared, privacy, public security, openness and democracy, and the institutions that will govern the data revolution. The recent Cambridge Analytica scandal has exposed the vulnerability of democracies to data strategies deployed on platforms such as Facebook to influence the outcomes of the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US presidential race. Any national data strategy will have to address both the economic and non-economic dimensions of harnessing big data. Balances will have to be struck between numerous goals. The essays in this collection, first published online in spring 2018, by leading scholars and practitioners, are grouped into five blocks: the rationale of a data strategy; the role of a data strategy for Canadian industries; balancing privacy and commercial values; domestic policy for data governance; and international policy considerations. An epilogue concludes with some key questions to consider around data governance in the digital age.

About the Authors

Rohinton P. Medhora is a CIGI distinguished fellow, professor of practice at McGill University, and an expert in international economic relations, innovation policy, development economics and governance.

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.

Sachin Aggarwal is the chief executive officer of Think Research, a leading provider of evidence-based clinical decision support tools with a focused mission: to organize the world’s health knowledge so everyone receives the best care. A recipient of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 Award in 2017, Sachin currently sits on the board of the Council of Canadian Innovators and has served on the board of directors for various community outreach programs. Sachin holds a law degree from the University of Toronto and an M.B.A. from the Rotman School of Management.

Dan Breznitz is a professor and Munk Chair of Innovation Studies and the co-director of the Innovation Policy Lab in the Munk School at the University of Toronto.

Dan Ciuriak is a senior fellow at CIGI, where he is exploring the interface between Canada’s domestic innovation and international trade and investment. He is the director and principal of Ciuriak Consulting, Inc.

Andrew Clement is professor emeritus in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. His research and teaching interests are in the social implications of information/communications technology and human-centred systems development.

Norman Doidge, M.D., is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and author of The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing. He is on the research faculty at Columbia University’s Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research and on the faculty at the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychiatry.

Blayne Haggart is a CIGI senior fellow and associate professor of political science at Brock University in St. Catharines, Canada. His latest book, with Natasha Tusikov, is The New Knowledge: Information, Data and the Remaking of Global Power.

Ariel Katz is an associate professor in the University of Toronto's Faculty of Law, where he holds the Innovation Chair in Electronic Commerce.

André Loranger is the assistant chief statistician for strategic data management, methods and analysis at Statistics Canada.

Ian MacGregor is the founder, president, chief executive officer and chairman of North West Refining, a 50-percent partner in the North West Redwater Partnership, which is constructing a $25-billion bitumen refining complex in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland. The project will be the world’s first refinery designed from inception to incorporate CO2 capture, storage and utilization as an integral part of the design.

Kurtis McBride is co-founder and chief executive officer of Miovision, a technology company that provides the foundation for tomorrow’s smart cities by transforming the way traffic networks are managed today. Under Kurtis’s leadership, Miovision has provided the data and insights to improve traffic flow in more than 17,000 municipalities worldwide.

Brenda McPhail is the director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Privacy, Surveillance and Technology Project.

Jonathan Obar is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies at York University. He also serves as a research associate with the Quello Center, a communication policy research centre at Michigan State University. He previously served as a research fellow with the New America Foundation and with Free Press, as a researcher with the Open Society Foundations, and as a senior advisor to the Wikimedia Foundation’s Wikipedia Education Program.

Taylor Owen is a CIGI senior fellow and the host of the Big Tech podcast. He is an expert on the governance of emerging technologies, journalism and media studies, and on the international relations of digital technology. 

Teresa Scassa is a CIGI senior fellow. She is also the Canada Research Chair in Information Law and Policy and a full professor at the University of Ottawa’s Law Faculty, where her groundbreaking research explores issues of data ownership and control.

Amanda Sinclair is a senior analyst for the National Economic Accounts Division at Statistics Canada. Her main areas of study include capturing digital transactions in GDP, the sharing economy and peer-to-peer transactions, the underground economy, as well as culture and sport in the Canadian economy. Her previous work includes analysis of consumer prices and inflation in Canada.

James Tebrake is a graduate of McMaster University (honours B.A. in economics) and Carleton University (master’s degree in economics). He joined Statistics Canada in 1992. Since then, he has worked in a number of program areas in the economic statistics field, including the international trade statistics program and the industry statistics program. He is currently director general of the Macroeconomic Accounts Branch, where he oversees programs responsible for developing macroeconomic indicators such as GDP, national net worth, labour productivity, balance of payments and government revenues, expenditures and levels of debt.

Bianca Wylie is a CIGI senior fellow. Her main areas of interest are procurement and public sector technology. She focuses on examining Canadian data and technology policy decisions and their alignment with democratically informed policy and consumer protection.