The South African Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

World Economic Forum Launches Initiative to Enable Equitable and Trusted Use of Data for Global Common Good

  • World Economic Forum announces today the first-of-its-kind global initiative on designing a governance framework to responsibly enhance the societal benefit from data  
  • Individuals, private enterprise, civil society, research and government institutions will all benefit when data assets are exchanged to stimulate the transition from traditional to data-driven economies
  • The initiative is critical to ensuring that currently inaccessible data is available to solve key challenges, such as optimizing responses to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • With over 50 global partners from 20 countries, including 10 governments, the Data for Common Purpose Initiative aims to drive innovation in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by accelerating the trustworthy and equitable use of data to unlock value
  • Learn more about the initiative here

San Francisco, USA, 8 December 2020 – Governments, researchers and the healthcare industry have always relied on the insights data provides to make decisions that benefit the public good, a challenge emphasized by the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking to the future, data will be a major component of rebuilding the economy and responding to these issues.

With over 50 partners from 20 countries around the world, the Data for Common Purpose Initiative (DCPI) is building a foundational governance framework. The framework will refocus data policy and models towards common purposes that will enable differentiated permissioning of the same data, depending on context. Such flexible data governance models could enable government-led data exchanges that can promote a transition to a data-driven economy.

“Some 25 quintillion bytes of data are created each day. All of this information can yield powerful insights but we have not been able to access and use these data in a meaningful way,” said Nadia Hewett, Project Lead, World Economic Forum. “This initiative aims to unlock data from existing siloes and create opportunities for both public good and commercial benefit.”

Historically, institutions and existing policy and regulatory models have attempted to balance data protection with business incentives. The DCPI will reorient governance to the realities of data sharing, developing a framework to enable access to data for intended and agreed upon purposes, without compromising individual privacy rights. 

“It is impossible to foresee all the potential uses for data at the moment it is created or provided. Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies are on a path to enable differentiated permissioning of the same data, dependent upon permitted purposes. In collaboration with the global project community, the DCPI will co-design frameworks to ensure that a person’s data cannot be used for non-permissioned purposes, that their rights are recognized and respected, and that economic benefits and risks are appropriately allocated across a more complete set of stakeholders,” said Sheila Warren, Head of Data, Blockchain and Digital Assets, World Economic Forum.

By highlighting opportunities for unlocking data for common purposes, the DCPI aims to enable the repurposing and reuse of data across public and commercial sectors.

“Data for common good can only flourish if the Forum and DCPI can foster a data trust strategy and mindset. The actionable challenge is twofold. How can we agree on common principles to govern and protect data? How can we envision new ways of exchanging data that place the right value on data contributed by all? Addressing these challenges is key to unlocking the true value of data for a common purpose,” said Sean Joyce, Global and US Cybersecurity, Privacy & Forensics Leader, PwC US.

This multi-year initiative will explore policy, technical and commercial enablers for a flexible and ethical data governance framework. In addition to incorporating best-in-class building blocks, such as policies, toolkits and protocols, the DCPI will pilot projects with public and private sector partners to test and inform its governance framework. These pilots extend across domains such as agriculture, energy, health, environment, mobility and others. This way, DCPI helps to advance the overall data field through what is otherwise individual and independent efforts or projects.

Key pilot projects include:

A pilot run by the Government of Colombia is developing a first-of-its-kind, government-led data marketplace to more easily connect data contributors and consumers.

Meanwhile, the Government of Japan is working alongside the private sector to explore data exchanges available to address challenges in public health, medicine and elderly care, and to extend applications to disaster prevention and traffic safety.

Located in Norway, the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Ocean use the advances in new technologies to improve the environmental footprint of ocean industries.

Collaborator quotes:

“Data exchanges can help people and societies get the most out of the digital age, unlocking value, driving economic growth and spreading the benefits more equitably. The Japanese government has been actively exploring the adoption of data exchanges and welcomes this important new global initiative,” said Takuya Hirai, Minister for Digital Transformation, Government of Japan.

“The Data for Common Purpose Initiative is about finding new ways to unlock the power of data to solve global challenges. We look forward to helping shape an approach that empowers consumers, ensures they benefit from data-driven innovations, and encourages organizations to be accountable stewards of consumer data – protecting it and respecting privacy. Through DCPI, we have an opportunity to help unlock the potential benefits of levering data to support the growth of economies and the prosperity of consumers everywhere, while guarding their privacy rights,” said Melissa McSherry, Senior Vice-President, Global Head of Data Products and Solutions, Visa.

“Our world is on the cusp of transformations in system architecture, governance and economic theory. In the new data-driven socioeconomic paradigm, our collective prosperity will ultimately rest on how effectively we are able to harness the power vested in data. Blockchain and the decentralized systems it supports will act as the critical catalysts that allow us to realize the benefits of DCPI without compromising the integrity of our social fabric,” said Donald Bullers, Global Technical Lead, Elastos Foundation.

“A data-driven economy is needed now more than ever. The full value of data is essential to driving an economic rebound in the wake of COVID-19. People across the world, along with governments, civil society and the private sector, want to use data for public good. The World Economic Forum is uniquely placed to bring together the public and private sectors to co-create a governance framework that facilitates responsible data exchange and removes unintended policy barriers to its use,” said Alice Gast, President, Imperial College London.

“The role that data plays in our economy and lives is increasing every day – the work done on the DCPI will play a key role in understanding how to build effective data marketplaces from both the technology and policy perspective. Fujitsu believes that Data is one of the main emerging components of the global economy and are happy to participate in this important initiative,” said Catherine Mulligan, Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer, North and West Europe, Fujitsu Services.

“From the data marketplace approach, we are crowdsourcing the operational and regulatory frameworks of data exchange, preserving the protection of users’ rights and promoting novel digital business models. In the long term, the initiative will mature the concept of data markets as a standard practice for public and private sector advancement, or even individual’s growth,” said Victor Muñoz, Presidential Advisor for Digital Transformation and Economic Affairs, Government of Colombia.

“Data policies and models that are developed should serve a common purpose to ensure the Fourth Industrial Revolution does not just benefit a select few but has social impact and addresses our country’s challenges,” said Khungeka Njobe, Group Executive, Business Excellence and Integration, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South Africa, and Co-Lead of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution South Africa.

“We are excited about the prospects of sharing data for common purposes. In the financial services sector, we have seen the immense benefits of open-source data standards in making data shareable for a common purpose. Open-source data standards enable the use of technology to easily share data between financial institutions and regulators for the common purpose of achieving financial stability through transparency,” said Diana Paredes, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Suade.

“In combating emissions, plastic waste and overfishing, we need to engage and mobilize key players. We are already working with several committed partners in industry, science, conservation and government. The Data for Common Purpose Initiative gives us a solid platform to work from, both in developing content but not the least to engage with ambitious partners from all sectors,” said Bjørn Tore Markussen, Chief Executive Officer, C4IR Ocean, Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Norway.

This initiative builds on the work undertaken at the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution over the past two years and is a significant step forward to ensuring that the Fourth Industrial Revolution benefits everyone.

Notes to editors
Read more about the Data for Common Purpose Initiative here
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The World Economic Forum, committed to improving the state of the world, is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation. The Forum engages the foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. (www.weforum.org).

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