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Curbing data flows: Digital sovereignty on the rise


Published 09 November 2021

Regulatory regimes around the world are pushing to claim jurisdiction over data. While the impact of such policies remains largely unknown, the curbing of data flows and potential splintering of the global internet threaten to undermine development and economic growth. In this video, our panel of experts share their insights on and concerns about digital sovereignty.

Watch the full discussion here:

As data becomes more central in today’s increasingly digital economy, some governments are reserving the right to control the collection, ownership, usage, and storage of citizens’ data. Subjecting data to traditional conceptions of territoriality disrupts the flow of cross-border data and threatens to limit the potential of new technologies.

  • Deborah Elms of the Asian Trade Centre outlines the key issues of Digital Sovereignty: protectionism or autonomy?, the latest in a series of reports by the Centre for the Hinrich Foundation. She explains what is meant by digital sovereignty and the challenges facing businesses, in particular small businesses, as policymakers exercise control over data.
  • Henry Gao of Singapore Management University breaks down the different regimes for data sovereignty, as explained in Data Governance in Trade Agreements: Three Digital Kingdoms. According to Gao, a law professor, the coexistence of these three models — firm sovereignty, state sovereignty, and individual sovereignty — has resulted in different approaches to the regulation of digital trade and data. It remains to be seen whether the approaches will continue to function concurrently.
  • Susan Ariel Aaronson, who leads the Digital Trade and Data Governance Hub at George Washington University, discusses how the valuation of data behind policymakers’ push for sovereignty could be inhibitive to scientific and technological advancement globally. Aaronson cites her paper for the Hinrich Foundation, Data is disruptive: How data sovereignty is challenging data governance.
  • Francisco Mingorance, Secretary General of the Cloud Infrastructure Services Providers in Europe (CISPE), illustrates the characteristics of data sovereignty as recognised by CISPE – as technological freedom of choice, control over personal data, security and resilience, protection of legal interests and jurisdictional immunity, and sustainability of data and cloud infrastructure.

The webinar, which finished with a Q&A for the panel of experts, is a timely look at a contentious element of the rapidly evolving landscape around data governance.

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