KHK Senior Research Fellow Dr. Carolina Aguerre recently participated in the peer review sessions for the 2021 edition of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Digital Economy Report DER. The report, published bi-annually, seeks to “examine the implications of the emerging digital economy for developing countries in terms of value creation and capture."
This year’s edition will be released in September and focusses on cross border data flows, a topic closely aligned with Dr. Aguerre’s research at the Centre. To produce the report, UNCTAD follows a peer-review methodology, inviting experts in the field of digital economy research to weigh-in on the items that will appear in the final version. A draft is sent to a selected group, whose comments and criticism are then offered in a closed workshop. Aguerre led the discussion for a session entitled “mapping national policies on cross-border data flows."
“I had elaborated a document last year which was used for three of the chapters,” writes Dr. Aguerre. “That document was an input for the report which they inserted in different sections. The same happens with other experts' feedback, it is their methodology and finally UNCTAD holds the pen and controls the final report.”
Aguerre’s paper contributed to the framing of how fragmentation in the digital space occurs with respect to cross border data flows. Emphasis was placed on the main national and regional policies addressing these flows, with special focus on the involvement of Latin American and Caribbean countries around trade-related activity on digital issues.
“The topic is close to my research agenda at the Centre and is a critical aspect for global governance and cooperation.” The degree to which data is able to move freely across borders has massive consequences for development as well as the security and privacy of those to whom the data belongs. Data movement at the extremes (locked in-country vs. unregulated exchange) risks either stagnation and strained development - especially in the pandemic context - or widespread misuse and illegal activity.
“A more complex issue is how to make local actors in less developed countries capture value from that data without leaving it all to ‘big tech’. It is problematic - you want data to be protected but also fairly used. Because of the design of the digital ecosystem both the networks and many platform services need data to be able to move around, but that has implications.”
Dr. Aguerre has noted that the workshop was a very positive endeavour. “All invited participants provided input. It was a very enriching experience, not just for UNCTAD, but for all of us who participated.”