IGF 2019 WS #171 Data flows and global trade: Issues of inclusive development

Organizer 1: Sven Hilbig, Bread for the World
Organizer 2: Deborah James, Director of International Programs, Center for Economic and Policy Research
Organizer 3: Renata Avila, World Wide Web Foundation
Organizer 4: Dieter Janecek, Bundestag
Organizer 5: Legborsi Nwiabu, National Association of Nigerian Traders
Organizer 6: Anita Gurumurthy, IT for Change
Organizer 7: Parminder Jeet Singh, Just Net Coalition and IT for Change
Organizer 8: Norbert Bollow, Just Net Coalition, Digitale Gesellschaft Schweiz

Speaker 1: Sven Hilbig, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Deborah James, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Renata Avila, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 4: Dieter Janecek, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 5: Legborsi Nwiabu, Civil Society, African Group

Policy Question(s): 

1. What kind of global trade regimes around data flows and management best serve the requirements of inclusive development?
2. What are the economic value and development imperatives involved in this regard, apart from those of privacy and data protection?
3. Is the choice only between absolute free flow of data or full localization, or does there exist an in-between solution that is best for developing countries?
4. Do different categories of data require different data flow and localization regimes?

Relevance to Theme: The Internet and the digital economy built over it is in many ways born global. It is therefore essential to examine data governance from a global perspective, of free data flows and national data management in a global economy. Trade agreements have become the first key arena where these questions have become center-stage.
The workshop also relates to the theme of digital inclusion, because inclusion at the international or geo-economic/political level is crucial for people in the global digital society.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Data is a central element of what constitutes, and is expressed by people as, the Internet today, and the set of social, economic, political and cultural relationships built around it. Data governance in its global form, with specific relevance to inclusion of all people and nations, therefore is a key subject matter of Internet Governance today.


Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Description: "Data flows and global trade regimes: Issues of inclusive development"
At the centre of global digital trade regimes is the issue of cross-border data flows, as again asserted recently by the protagonists of the WTO pluri-lateral on e-commerce.

One one hand it is claimed that free data flows globally are a must for development of global digital services, including AI, which will bring a fundamental positive transformation in all sectors of the economy and the society. Such a digital revolution, the claim goes, will raise all boats and therefore all must cooperate towards free and easy global flows of data.

On the other hand, those who resist unregulated free global flow of data make the point that it is only resulting in near absolute concentration of data and digital power with a few digital corporations, in the US, and now some from China. They consider such free data flows as an unfair and uncompensated extraction of the important local and national resource of data by these few global corporations. It could mean poor or no digital or data industry in other parts of the world, making the world even more uneven in terms of economic development. Free global flows of data may also mean that data escapes due regulation, which is anchored at national levels. This is very problematic from the public interest point of view as data is increasingly underpinning almost all key economic and social activities.

This workshop will discuss what free data flows, or alternatively, data flow regulation regimes, are meant to achieve, and how these work. The discussion will be placed in the context of the very hot and vibrant global digital trade policy discussions. Do different kinds of data require different cross-border flow regimes? How can the legal and regulatory remit of any country be ensured to apply to data of its citizens, artefacts and natural resources, when it flows across the border? Such legal and regulatory issues may concern not just privacy and security but also important issues of economic rights and development. The various current debates on these issues will be presented, and critically analysed from the viewpoint of inclusive and equitable development, across social groups and across nations and regions.

The key question would be, what kind of global data flow and/or localisation regimes suit best an inclusive development agenda, taking from traditional economic and social development values, concepts and practices.

The format will be that of a Roundtable, with the listed speakers as subject matter experts. The moderator will direct the speakers to introduce the topic through their expertise, after which she will open the discussion up for everyone at the table. Subject matter experts will pitch in when necessary.

Experts will speak for 5 minutes each on:
1) Data as an economic resource and values/imperatives apart from privacy and data protection
2) The relationship between global trade in data and inclusive development
3) Global trade models that would be beneficial for developing countries
4) The specific data flow/localization regimes and their appropriateness for different kinds of data

The inclusion of experts along with the openness of the discussion will allow this polarized debate to find commonality grounded in developing country experience.

Expected Outcomes: We expect the workshop to have the following outcomes.
1. The participants are exposed to the state of the art vis a vis global level data governance issues as they are being taken up in global trade rules discussions and negotiations.
2. We are able to move to more viable and practical positions, especially from a developing country view point, from the currently highly polarized debate on global data flows.
3. The IGF community is able to contribute to sophisticated, cutting edge debate on global digital trade.

Onsite Moderator: 

Norbert Bollow, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator: 

Anita Gurumurthy, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Parminder Jeet Singh, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Discussion Facilitation: 

We plan to have very short comments from the speaker and then open it to all participants to comment and ask questions. The moderator will ensure that the dialogue in open and participative in order to move towards the proposed outcomes. Walk-in participants will be encouraged to contribute.

Online Participation: 

We will give options for remote participation to those interested, and advertise it.


GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure