Event Highlight

2016 Global Digital Futures Policy Forum: Data Governance

Posted Apr 25 2016

Columbia SIPA’s Digital Futures Policy Forum is envisioned as a long-term intellectual initiative to reimagine our digital future, focus on the potential benefits and costs arising from global digital technology changes and, importantly, anticipate public policy solutions to emerging problems that will shape the future of society and the economy for generations to come. The 2016 forum considerd both domestic and international dimensions of data governance in the context of technological change and globalization.

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  • Seven panels and two keynote presentations to discuss future technology trends, their policy consequences and possible solutions

    Thought leaders including Columbia University faculty from SIPA, business, law, engineering, journalism; influential policy makers, entrepreneurs, legal experts, technologists, and corporate executives from around the world.

    Session highlights included:

    • Global Cyber Security Challenges around Data 
    • National Data Sovereignty in the Global Economy
    • Preserving Individuals’ Rights in the Context of Massive Data Collection
    • Cyber Conflict: Prevention, Stability and Control
    • The Potential and Pitfalls of an Algorithmic Society 
    • On Notice: The Coming Transformation of Key Economic Sectors  
    • Open Data for Civic Engagement and Urban Governance
  • Opening Keynote: How Digital Technology and Data are Changing our World

    How will advances linked to data creation, computationally intensive practices (e.g. artificial intelligence and automation), and the transition from a network that primarily comprises person-to-person connections to one comprising object-to-object connections, affect highly regulated fields, where public policy mediates a variety of social, political, ethical and economic interests, including public health, medicine (precision medicine, genomics), the automotive industry, and beyond.

    • What are the emerging problem areas?
    • What applications is DARPA driving?
    • Where are the great opportunities? What are the major technological changes occurring as a result of data and analytics? 

    Panel 1: Global Security Challenges and Data: Intelligence Gathering, Encryption, and Sharing in a World of ISIS

    Islamic State and other extremist groups use information and communication technologies to recruit, fundraise, spread their messages of hate, and maybe soon to directly attack critical infrastructures. States, and occasionally non-states, have a range of policy and technology tools to use to counter these online threats, but how far can policymakers push in this area without fundamentally eroding human rights, privacy, undermining democracy, or weakening these technologies to the point they can no longer be engines of innovation and economic growth?  After the Paris attacks, many senior law enforcement officials cried that government must have more online power. Can this be done without sacrificing what made the Internet a success?

    • How can information sharing arrangements between governments and firms and between governments be improved to permit necessary intelligence gathering and sharing across jurisdictions? What is the role for citizen oversight/courts?
    • Given differences in privacy laws within the EU and between the US and the EU and other jurisdictions, what legal or policy mechanisms needs to be created or adjusted (e.g. MLATs)?
    • How should we think about content regulation and oversight in the age of terrorist attacks and online recruitment?
    • How to strike the right balance in the tensions that arise vis-à-vis human rights, commerce, security and other important societal needs?

    Issues paper:

    Panel 1 Issue Brief, by David Omand

    Panel 2: National Data Governance in a Global Economy

    The global digital economy is reliant on the exchange of data between companies across borders. Many nations are presently asserting their sovereignty over information technologies and data. The policy decisions made now will bring with them a host of issues over the coming decade that will affect how companies operate, seen in their storage of and exchange of data, and as a consequence world trade and the growth of the global (digital) economy at large.

    • How is the trend towards greater imposition of ‘data sovereignty’ manifesting itself? (e.g. data localization and residency, rejection of ‘safe harbor’)
    • Is data localization another form of protectionism, industrial policy or privacy protection? How is one to determine? What is the balance to be struck?
    • How best to consider sovereignty and international trade concerns in a global economy?

    Issues paper:

    Panel 2 Issues Brief, by Anupam Chander

    Lunch Keynote: The Future of Digital Technologies for International Affairs

    The world economy and relationships between states have changed over the past decade due to the rapid adoption of digital technological changes worldwide. In turn, diplomats and foreign services have had to adapt their methods and capabilities in new and creative ways. Additionally, changes have been triggered in other governmental organizations. At a high level, discussions around governance of the Internet has engaged traditionally diplomatic organizations like the United Nations. At the same time, at a domestic level, economic development and aid communities have turned their attention to the role that digital technologies might play in continued development.

    • What will be the future implications of the continued adoption and spread of digital technologies on international affairs broadly speaking?
    • What role might the United Nations and its member states play in various aspects of governance of the Internet going forward?
    • What will be the importance of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in steering the digital development agenda over the coming decade?

    Panel 3A: The Potential and Pitfalls of an Algorithmic Society

    Public sector and private sector organizations, including content intermediaries, are increasingly using algorithms and automation in decision-making. Insurance, trading, medicine, policing and marketing are all undergoing changes due to the adoption of these practices. Increasing automation may have the counter-intuitive effect of reducing human autonomy though as decisions are made in ways that are beyond of the control or understanding of many individuals. Our understanding of and evidence base on which to make policy decisions surrounding these practices and their consequences remains limited.

    • What are the consequences of and subsequent public policy challenges associated with uses of algorithmic and automated decision-making in the public and private sectors?
    • In the absence of a robust evidence base, how can policy makers ensure the use of algorithms adheres to societal norms? How might this evidence base be put together?
    • How to consider liability issues and who is responsible for accountability over algorithmically determined or automated decisions?

    Panel 3B: Cyber Conflict: Prevention, Stability and Control

    Global cyber conflict continues to worsen year after year even as the world is becoming incredibly and irreversibly reliant on digital systems and data.  Yet in 2015 the major cyber powers agreed on a number of measures to reduce the risk of cyber conflict, most notably agreements on norms about cyber espionage and targeting in warfare.  The future filled with uncertainty in this area: cyber conflict may continue to escalate, and with it undermine the benefits that the digital revolution might bring, or nations might find ways to resolve their competing interests at an international level and develop new instruments for managing conflict.

    • What progress had been made in norms, confidence building measures, and crisis management (e.g. treaties, norms, domestic and international sanctions)? What are the emerging norms in light of US-China, China–UK, G20 and other developments?
    • What are the critical gaps that have to be addressed (either between private enterprises and government or between governments) to minimize the risks of cyber conflict? What might public policy do to fill these gaps?
    • What role is there for non-state actors to contribute to crisis stability and control dangerous escalation?

    Issues paper:

    Panel 3B Issues Brief, by Jason Healey and Tim Maurer

    Panel 4A: Massive Data Collection and Automation: Preserving Individuals’ Rights

    The collection, aggregation, and sharing of data are at the heart of intelligence gathering practices, online advertising, and the distributed ‘Internet of Things’ networks of sensors. Cultural practices are changing and new concerns are emerging due to this ubiquitous capture and sharing of everyday information. Public policy will be called upon to protect or preserve previously established individuals’ rights in a context where the sheer quantity of personal and behavioral data and the uses of these data exceed most people’s comprehension.

    • How can public policy best protect individual civil liberties while also enabling digital data collection and analysis, and the benefits that it brings, at a national and global level?
    • Is there a possibility for people to assert their ownership rights over their data within this context? Is this desirable?  Are there “standards” that can be introduced and if so, by what type of entities?
    • Can corporations design private voluntary mechanisms and can such mechanisms contribute positively?

    Panel 4B: On Notice: The Coming Transformation of Key Economic Sectors

    This panel will look at several key sectors that are currently undergoing significant disruption as a result of the development and commercialization of data and digital technologies over the past decade: finance, utilities, agriculture, urban transportation and logistics. For instance, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have grown over the past five years – the financial sector is now quickly adopting the underlying blockchain technology to gain efficiencies in their own operations.  Utilities and agriculture are rapidly adopting sensors and data-driven operations. The ‘uberization’ of several markets over the past decade (e.g. hotels, taxis) is now moving into logistics.

    • What is driving the adoption of these technologies globally? Why these particular industries or economic sectors and not others?
    • How might differing national regulatory regimes help or stifle the adoption of these technologies globally? 

    Issues paper:

    Panel 4B Issues Brief, by Joah Sapphire

    Panel 5: Civic entrepreneurs: Global perspectives on open data, engagement and urban governance

    Around the globe technologists, government innovators, and civil society are leveraging digital tools and open data to make governance more responsive to citizens, strengthen the relationship between citizens and their government, provide new ways for citizens to participate in decision-making in their communities, and make governments more accountable. Yet if the past decade is anything to go by - none of these outcomes are guaranteed.

    • What are the most promising global examples of data and technology being used to hold government to account, better govern urban areas or increase civic engagement?
    • What might be the subsequent outcomes – both positive and negative - in areas such as governance, healthcare and sustainable or local development?
    • What kind of evidence base is required so as to generate robust and meaningful evaluations of the outcomes and success various open data initiatives?

    Issues paper:

    Panel 5 Issues Brief, by Hollie Russon Gilman

    Open Data's Impact, by NYU GovLab

  • This conference was hosted by:

    For nearly 70 years, Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) has been equipping future leaders with the skills, knowledge and intellectual curiosity to solve the world’s most critical public policy challenges. Through a rigorous and multidisciplinary curriculum, practical capstone projects and field work that engage real world issues, and connections to world-renowned scholars and practitioners, SIPA students learn to make a positive difference in the world, whether in the public, private, or nonprofit sector. At home in Columbia’s prestigious university community and the global City of New York, SIPA is also a uniquely diverse, international and entrepreneurial community that brings together world leaders of diverse backgrounds, skills, and perspectives.

    SIPA recently launched a new initiative around technology and policy called ‘Tech&Policy@SIPA’. This ambitious effort fuses public policy, engineering, data science and entrepreneurship through a variety of activities, including new courses on data analytics and visualization; a Challenge Grant that invites graduate students to combine ICT and data to solve urban challenges globally; participation with Columbia Entrepreneurship in a start-up lab in lower NYC; and interdisciplinary research around internet policy issues including internet governance and cyber security. This new research is aimed at deepening collaboration at Columbia University across disciplines as well as convening interdisciplinary expert groups, such as at this Conference. By equipping the next generation of public policy students and scholars with a deeper understanding of new technology, nurturing organizations that are building novel tech-based solutions to pressing public policy problems, and supporting cutting-edge interdisciplinary research, SIPA is stimulating a host of creative endeavors at the intersection of technology and public policy.

    With support from:

    Carnegie Corporation of New York was established by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mandate, the Corporation's agenda focuses on the issues that Andrew Carnegie considered of paramount importance: international peace, the advancement of education and knowledge, and the strength of our democracy

    Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, United States that develops, manufactures, licenses and supports a wide range of products and services related to computing. The company was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen on April 4, 1975. Microsoft is the world's largest software maker measured by revenues. It is also one of the world's most valuable companies.

    The Columbia Institute for Tele-Information (CITI) is a university-based research center focusing on strategy, management, and policy issues in telecommunications, computing, and electronic mass media. Founded in 1983 at Columbia University, the institute is the first research center for communications economics, management, and policy established at a US management school. Its location in New York City provides a unique foundation for these activities. Research collaboration among academic, corporate, and public sectors is vital in analyzing the complex problems associated with managing communications enterprises, systems, and policy in environments of rapidly changing technology and regulation.

    And assistance with live streaming from:

    The Internet Society