Cross-border data flows are the most hotly contested issue globally in terms of digital trade. IT for Change proposes a new framework to govern cross-border data flows, 'Data Flow with Data Right', which in our view should assure developing countries that their concerns, especially economic and sovereignty-related, are being taken on board.
Data sharing and data flows are indeed fundamental to the functioning of a global digital economy, but the default approach of “free flow of data” has been increasingly recognized as inadequate. At the 2019 G20 Summit, this doctrine was amended to address privacy concerns, and a new framework of ‘Data Free Flow with Trust’ was coined. This, however, does not assuage the concerns of developing countries about the economic exploitation of the value of data, leading to digital colonization, and they have refused to accept it.
Discussions on cross-border data flows need to accommodate new developments around data-related economic rights of individuals, small enterprises, groups, and communities, including national communities. Such a framework would be premised on incorporating three generations of rights to data governance – civil and political rights of data privacy and security, economic rights over data, and collective data rights.
Any framework for data rights would need to remain dynamic and evolving, given that the digital society is still in its nascent stage of development. At this point, we urge intergovernmental organizations, international civil society, and all progressive actors to collaborate on developing an overall guiding framework of cross-border ‘Data Flow with Data Rights’.