Talking about data with Lorrayne Porciuncula, Director, Data & Jurisdiction Program, Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network

Published on
May 31, 2021

The Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network has released a Report “We Need to Talk About Data: Framing the Debate Around the Free Flow of Data and Data Sovereignty”. The Report presents concerns and perspectives around these polarising policy concepts and offers recommendations on how to move forward. To unpack the key messages and explore the next steps I&JPN spoke to the Report’s contributors to ask how I&JPN can foster a collaborative discussion on how to organize our common Datasphere.

Lorrayne Porciuncula leads I&JPN work on cross-border data flows and is the co-author of the Report “We Need to Talk About Data: Framing the Debate Around the Free Flow of Data and Data Sovereignty”. 


Why do we need to talk about data?

Data is everywhere and it is an increasingly valuable asset for firms, governments, and society at large. Data flows are considered a key enabler of digital transformation, critical for healthcare, new business models, education, or agriculture, to name just a few. However, as data becomes more prevalent in our lives and starts to map and understand not only cross-border services but also our health and preferences, many concerns arise, related to trust, as in privacy and security, but also trade, competition, skills, economic imbalances, societal impacts, etc.

What is the most important key message from the I&JPN Report?

How to organize the coexistence and interactions of billions of people and entities - with vastly different interests - connected through the internet and a global datasphere is a major issue of the digital age.

Striving to achieve common objectives, such as maximizing well-being and defining the distributions of responsibilities among actors, could guide efforts to solve some of the challenges.

When considering data policy approaches, why should we be thinking about our “common Datasphere”?

Due to the importance of data, it is no surprise that the issue is high on international policy agendas - from the G20 or G7, to organizations such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the African Union, or the World Trade Organization, just to name a few examples. However, international debates are yet to map clear paths forward on how to organize our common datasphere - understood here as holistic comprehension of this new space, spans encompassing all data, personal and non-personal, which is collected, stored, and processed across sectors and territories. Ultimately this is about our shared digital future and about how we collaborate to govern it.

How can we foster a collaborative discussion moving forward?

Our new initiative on the Datasphere (coming soon) aims to help us move forward.

We need a debate that is global, multi-stakeholder, and cross-sectoral, in order to bridge silos. Second, the discussion needs to be reframed to ensure that this complex and novel issue is addressed in a much more nuanced manner. Third, we need to be innovative in the tools, frameworks and concepts we use to address the issue of data.

We look forward to sharing more news on the Datasphere Initiative soon.