Data: How to Protect “This Century’s Most Important Resource”


Humanity has exploited and abused the earth’s natural resources and now we are trying our best to undo our mistakes. Let’s not make the same mistake with this century’s main resource, data.

This call for more responsible data usage was one of the main points raised by world leaders at this year’s Tallinn Digital Summit in Estonia. The heads of state and government discussed data, the role of digital tools in the pandemic and innovations in the works.

The Estonian Prime Minister, Polish Prime Minister, European Council leaders and United States officials discussed the common values ​​that hold them together and the digital tools that lead the way.

The importance of responsible data exchange

It is vital that nations learn from their mistakes in handling natural resources by making sure that data is used responsibly, said Charles Michel, President of the European Council. “Digitized data will be the most important resource of this century,” he said.

Common data can help stabilize financial markets, clinical trials, criminal investigations and national security, said Gina Raimondo, US Secretary of Commerce. The private industry also benefits from shared data, which is the key to the competitiveness of economies, she said.

Storing data within a country harms “all of our businesses, all of our economies and all of our citizens,” she said. An example of this are global banks that cannot detect malicious threats and fraudulent activity without international data exchange, explained Raimondo.

However, governments should be careful about how they use citizen data. Citizens deserve to be confident that their information is being treated “safely, securely and lawfully,” said Raimondo.

Next steps for the pandemic

“Covid-19 is the first global pandemic of the information age,” said Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of Estonia. The pandemic has “accelerated the digitization of services at a rapid pace,” including the delivery of goods and communications, she added.

But the work is not done. The pandemic showed that “many essential tools for functioning in the modern world are missing,” she continued. One example of this is how governments have yet to develop a global approach to the recognition of vaccination certificates, stressed Kallas.

The next steps are to use digital innovations to build better. To do this, governments need to “rethink” what infrastructure really means in the 21st century, she said. “Infrastructure is no longer just about bricks and mortar, roads, railways and bridges,” continues Kallas.

“Today infrastructure means digital connections”, whereby digital tools are inextricably linked with the physical infrastructure, emphasized Kallas. Technology is key to developing “new goods, services and business models” around the world, she added.

Michel shared this vision of increasing the use of digital tools. He discussed the importance of developing a strategy for greater digital transformation based on the European values ​​of “fair, balanced and people-centered” partnerships.

The result is “more influence and less dependency” on the digital and geopolitical strategy, he said. The aim is “to make Europe more autonomous in our networked world,” he explained.

Politics of the future

World leaders shared some of the innovative guidelines around digital tools that citizens can expect in the future. The cycle of new innovations that replace existing technologies has become extremely fast, said Kallas.

“Self-driving vehicles along with affordable renewable energy” are an option for the future of transport, she noted. 15 years ago the possibility of booking a taxi via app was “unthinkable”, today this “fantasy” is commonplace, Kallas continues.

Another policy that citizens can expect is improved access to the Internet. Recent budget plans in the US ensure that “every American, no matter where they live, has access to fast and affordable broadband,” Raimondo said.

The U.S. plans to invest $ 100 billion to bolster America’s broadband, Vox reported. The US is also investing in digital literacy training and expanding access to digital devices, added Raimondo.

Closing the digital divide will benefit the country’s innovation potential as it relies on “citizens being educated, digitally literate and connected,” she continued. Investing domestically will enable the US to be more competitive on the global stage, she said.

The EU and US want to produce more semiconductors and microprocessors that form the backbone of building technology, added Raimondo.

While there were optimistic visions for the future, world leaders were quick to warn of the future of digital services. But they also presented an optimistic view of the future, which is better built through technology and improved infrastructure.

Image from: Facebook page of the European Commission Representatives in Estonia.


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