Data Power Dynamics: Who Runs the World in 2027?

Data Power Dynamics: Who Runs the World in 2027?

GGF 2027 Data Governance Working Group

June 2017

In post-industrial societies, data, as well as data-driven technologies, are seeping into many aspects of life – involving a complex group of individuals, organizations, and governments who manage and own the technologies that create, use, alter, and destroy this data. Recognizing the growing centrality of these actors, this report considers how relationships between these diverse groups will change in the next 10 years. To explain some of these possibilities, we created three scenarios that portray not only what the digital world would look like in 2027, but also how those developments occurred. Following the scenarios, the report analyzes trends and insights gained from exploring these possible futures. Finally, we present the steps taken to build these scenarios.

We use the term data governance to encompass the relationships between the various and overlapping stakeholder groups that create, use, or own data. Beyond these initial actors, third parties also use data to discern entirely new things that were never intended by the original creator of the data.

The first scenario, “Towards ‘De-Digitization,’” imagines a world where both a distrust in technology and difficulties in securing data takes hold in some parts of the world, leading individuals and communities to consider disconnecting from key systems, such as digital payment and banking systems, which cannot be secured from malicious actors. The second scenario, “Rise of the Digital Nation,” considers how rapid technological growth combined with nearly universal and affordable access to the internet could outpace citizens’ ability to understand the ramifications of the data they create, allowing exploitation by those who provide internet access. Finally, the third scenario, “Data Harmonization,” envisions a world that becomes more interoperable, with technology and innovation driving world politics and changing the global governance landscape.

In creating these scenarios, a few key relationships and drivers emerge. Regardless of the rate of change and particular technologies that become entrenched, an important consideration is that the pace of technological literacy will impact who harnesses and benefits most from new technologies. Understanding the risks and the users of technologies was core to determining whether a technological development could have a positive or negative outcome, both for the present moment and in 2027. Additionally, the importance of trust in the integrity of data, as well as the transparency of data usage, emerged as pivotal factors in multiple scenarios. While cybersecurity is already an important topic, it is hard to overstate the importance of protecting networks and data as we become increasingly dependent on data that are vulnerable to corruption.