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Trade and technology

Geopolitics and the race for data supremacy

Published 05 October 2022

Data has become an essential resource for governments with its ability to influence geopolitical events in real time. The 'gray zone' in the datasphere will drive the rise of a privacy and data security economy, but techno-nationalist competition in both the physical and virtual world will reshape the trade landscape.

It is wrong to say that data is the “new oil”. Data, in fact, is far more valuable than oil because it is an nonexpendable commodity. It can be used again and again, sold, and resold, and analyzed and re-analyzed for different kinds of value extraction. Developments in the global flows of information can alter the balance of power between countries.

To grasp the full extent of this phenomenon, this paper by Research Fellow Alex Capri focuses on three core themes. In the report’s first section, he examines how both state-backed companies and the world’s largest private companies are providing governments — both autocratic and democratic — with unprecedented amounts of data across a range of industries and sectors in pursuit of economic, military, and social objectives. Capri examines how governments use personal data to orchestrate and influence operations, such as narrative wars and swaying voters' behavior. The report also looks at how governments have partnered with and coopted private companies to turn them into techno-nationalist assets -- a dynamic that has made the datasphere a dangerous arena.

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Alex Capri

Alex Capri is a research fellow at the Hinrich Foundation and a lecturer in the Business School at the National University of Singapore. He also teaches at the NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

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