Data Free Flow with Trust Tops G7 Digital Agenda

By: Sonny Zulhuda

The recently concluded G7 Summit hosted by the current UK Presidency reinforces the digital agenda, showing that data protection tops the list of the priority. Consistency appears as the leaders are determined to champion data free flow with trust (DFFT) in order to maximize the potential of data-driven economy. To strategize the steps forward, G7 leaders from the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US and the head of European Union endorse the Roadmap for Cooperation on Data Free Flow with Trust that has been earlier proposed by the countries’ Digital Ministers.

The declaration entitled CARBIS BAY G7 SUMMIT COMMUNIQUÉ (June 13, 2021) understandably starts with the determination to address challenges of Covid-19 Pandemic, and steps to rebuild the world from its social impact. This issue altogether undeniably remains the most important and urgent at the moment.

Nevertheless, the Summit cannot ignore the importance of the digital agenda as this cannot wait and needs to move one way or another. It is not an exaggeration to say that addressing this digital agenda will also allow us to have better space and abilities to address the challenges of the pandemic.

Under the heading “Future Frontiers”, the Summit states that future frontiers of the global economy and society – from cyber space to outer space – will determine the future prosperity and wellbeing of people all over the world in the decades ahead.  Therefore all the economic and social infrastructure needs to be improved, and cyberspace as well as digital economies are the central spine of this development.

In summary, the digital agenda pushed forward by G7 includes (i) Data Privacy, (ii) Electronic Business, (iii) Internet Safety, (iv) Cyber Security, and (v) Digital Competition. In my view, this list is enormous and appropriately covering the current dynamics of the Internet and digital economies. This document serves a good reminder for all of us what lies ahead in the realm of Internet governance vis a vis the digital society and economy. The governments of the rest of the world may need to take this checklist and see how the dynamic escalates or fluctuates depending on their respective local circumstances.

Here is the excerpt from the Communique as published in the US White House page.

Resolution 34

We will support cooperation on specific areas in relation to the evolution of future frontiers. Based on the work of our Digital and Technology Ministers, we agree the focus of our cooperation for this year will be a structured dialogue around specific areas:

  • Championing data free flow with trust, to better leverage the potential of valuable data-driven technologies while continuing to address challenges related to data protection. To that end we endorse our Digital Ministers’ Roadmap for Cooperation on Data Free Flow with Trust.
  • Enabling businesses to use electronic transferable records in order to generate efficiencies and economic savings to support the global economic recovery. In support of this aim we endorse the Framework for G7 Collaboration on Electronic Transferable Records.
  • Taking further steps to improve internet safety and counter hate speech, while protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, including free expression. We will protect our citizens online and offline, including children and vulnerable at-risk groups, and especially women and girls. We therefore endorse our Digital Ministers’ Internet Safety Principles which aim to set out common approaches to improving online safety. We invite Interior Ministers to work on a G7 agreement on sharing of information and best practice on tackling existing and emerging online forms of gender-based violence, including forms of online abuse. We affirm our support of the Christchurch Call, emphasising the need for respecting freedoms of speech and peoples’ reasonable expectation of privacy and further invite G7 Interior Ministers to continue work on preventing and countering Violent Extremist and Terrorist Use of the Internet begun in Ischia in 2017 and continued in Toronto in 2018 and Paris in 2019. We commit to work together to further a common understanding of how existing international law applies to cyberspace and welcome the work of our Foreign Ministers to promote this approach at the UN and other international fora. We also commit to work together to urgently address the escalating shared threat from criminal ransomware networks. We call on all states to urgently identify and disrupt ransomware criminal networks operating from within their borders, and hold those networks accountable for their actions.
  • Securing supply chains. Recognising the foundational role that telecommunications infrastructure, including 5G and future communication technologies, plays and will play in underpinning our wider digital and ICT infrastructure we will promote secure, resilient, competitive, transparent and sustainable and diverse digital, telecoms, and ICT infrastructure supply chains.
  • Deepening cooperation on Digital Competition in order to drive innovation across the global economy, enhancing consumer choice. We recognise that there is increasing international consensus that participants with significant market power can exploit their power to hold back digital markets and the wider economy. Therefore, building on the 2019 French G7 Presidency’s common understanding on ‘Competition and the Digital Economy’, we will work together through existing international and multilateral fora to find a coherent way to encourage competition and support innovation in digital markets.

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