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Global data governance takes center stage at the Osaka G20 Summit

When world leaders assembled at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, a surprising consensus emerged among leaders from Japan, South Africa, China, Germany and other countries that increased transparency and guidance is urgently needed on how data is collected, used and shared.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan was especially vocal on this topic, and has stated that his country’s chairmanship of the Group of 20 nations (G20) conference [on June 28 and 29, 2019] in Osaka would promote a new international data oversight system. Abe said, “I would like Osaka G20 to be long remembered as the summit that started worldwide data governance.”

To add to that, the G20 Trade Ministers and Digital Economy Ministers just recently issued this statement: “Cross-border flow of data, information, ideas and knowledge generates higher productivity, greater innovation, and improved sustainable development. At the same time, we recognize that the free flow of data raises certain challenges. By continuing to address challenges related to privacy, data protection, intellectual property rights, and security, we can further facilitate data free flow and strengthen consumer and business trust.”

This demonstrates that there is a global awakening to the importance of data both from a business and government perspective. And with this awakening comes the realization that the old ways of governing enterprise data will not be acceptable in 2020 and beyond.

Business as usual won’t cut it anymore, and both business and government communities need to come together to put proactive measures in place that protect consumers while embracing data driven innovation and the resulting economic growth.

The government perspective

We’re witnessing tremendous global momentum behind data governance right now. Governments understand that everything we do with personal data should be done thoughtfully and for the right purposes. Hence the rise of privacy regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enacted last year out of Europe, as well as an onslaught of new local regulations like the California Consumer Privacy Act, which many are viewing as a precursor to a unified federal law in the U.S.

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Signage for the 2019 Group of 20 (G20) Summit is displayed on a pole in Osaka, Japan, on Saturday, June 22, 2019. Central bankers hand back the spotlight to presidents and prime ministers this week as leaders from the Group of 20 gather for a summit in Japan. Photographer: Buddhika Weerasinghe/Bloomberg

These global legislative actions, which attempt to address concerns related to personal privacy, data protection, and security, while enabling greater productivity, innovation and sustainable development, have forced data governance onto national agendas throughout the world.

As organizations transform leveraging data as an innovation platform, the lines between digital native and established brands are blurring, so from a data governance perspective, government leaders acknowledge that any organization in business today innovates with and manages personal and sensitive data that should be appropriately governed.

A key concern for governments is that over regulation could stymie GDP growth. The productivity and innovation opportunities of digitalization can enable sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

The ministers at the June meeting understand the importance of balancing the need for increased transparency around data usage with the need to embrace and foster innovation, sharing that, “We recognize that governance in the digital era needs to be not only innovation-friendly but also innovative itself, while not losing legal certainty.”

It’s encouraging to hear policymakers understand that they can play a crucial role in innovating how regulations are crafted and ultimately implemented in a manner that balances economic development and societal trust.

The business perspective

Data governance as a priority for global government leaders is major news. But for large enterprises over the past decade, this topic has been on the rise. While regulatory compliance was an initial driver for data governance, the improvements in operational efficiency and business innovation from high quality trusted data has cemented the value of data governance as a foundational enabler for data democratization.

For many companies, early data governance efforts tended to be departmental in scope, and project-based to support targeted initiatives such as regulatory compliance, data quality for transactional applications, and data warehousing and reporting. But for every company entering Data 3.0 - leveraging data to power their digital transformations - they now understand the need for an enterprise-wide, program-based approach to deliver trusted, secure data across the enterprise to technical and non-technical data consumers that enables execution of boardroom-driven strategic initiatives.

This is especially true today with growing volumes of data, users and use cases, diversity of data types and user skill levels, and speed of technology innovations leading to exponential scale and complexity. The information that must be governed now extends well beyond structured data captured in ERP, CRM or data warehouse systems.

We’re now managing petabytes (and beyond) of structured and unstructured data in data lakes, and hundreds of applications spanning hybrid environments. And people in every area of the business want access to all of these data sources to improve decision making and operational execution, with an even more pressing need to put it to work to power the artificial intelligence and machine learning models that will help businesses scale for the future.

Companies understand that their business success relies on the right data, for the right purpose, at the right time. And that access to that data requires trust among all stakeholders including consumers, partners and government entities that the data is being used in a compliant and ethical manner. In fact, companies like Google and Microsoft have now established advisory committees and guidelines for AI and machine learning.

The ministers at the earlier meeting had a strong focus on how to ensure they can “provide an enabling environment for human-centered AI that promotes innovation and investment.” In their statement, the ministers also published G20 AI Principles, which included context on responsible stewardship of trustworthy AI. Data governance policies and standards will play a leading role in delivering clarity surrounding these principles.

A joint perspective

One thing’s for certain as we approach the G20 meeting in Osaka: the world’s attention is on data governance, and greater oversight and accountability are undoubtedly coming. It’s time for a shared international understanding that we need to continue to nurture and embrace data-driven innovation, while simultaneously protecting data and respecting personal privacy.

The opportunity is immense for both government and business, and neither can afford the severity of inaction. Data is truly powering the global economy and can drive business and social agendas if government entities and businesses come together and recognize that ethical use of data is a shared responsibility.

In order to succeed, even survive in today’s data-driven economy, both sides need to recognize that data governance, when applied intelligently, shouldn’t be viewed as a burden, but rather an opportunity to build trust while delivering significant business value across the enterprise. And I believe both government and business can agree that trust is one of the most valuable commodities.

As the ministers so perfectly stated, “We should come together to promote trust in the digital economy to harness the benefits brought by digitalization as well as to mitigate the associated challenges.”

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