Common tropes about data, such as claims that it is the new oil, sand, or bacon, highlight data’s growing importance to the economy and society. Many countries have responded by creating policies about data, including personal data, business data, and government data. These policies cover a range of issues, such as who can access it, where it can be stored, how it should be protected, and more.
There are important differences in how countries treat and value data. Some countries use data as an economic asset or as a tool for modernization and development, while others use data to exert control over citizens. This report compares key data policies in China, India, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the European Union. These countries were selected to show the menu of options that countries have taken in data policy. Although the United States has created some important data policies, such as on open government data, it was not included because it lacks a clear and consistent national approach to key data policy issues, such as data protection where state legislatures have set many of the rules.
For each country, the report details the country’s data policies’ goals, strategies, and tactics, as well as the agencies involved. This report does not attempt to explore all the nuances of each country’s data policies, particularly sectoral-focused policies in areas like financial services or health care. Instead, it focuses on broad, high-level thinking toward data. The report shows that while many countries recognize the social and economic value of data, the policies they pursue to maximize that value can vary widely.
Policymakers should learn from these global approaches and take action to craft a coordinated approach to data focused on two goals: maximizing the benefits of data-driven innovation (by encouraging data collection and data sharing, and avoiding unnecessarily burdensome data protection rules), and minimizing the barriers to cross-border data flows.