The world needs an International Decade for Data–or risk splintering into AI ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ UN researchers warn

Article by Tshilidzi Marwala and David Passarelli: “The rapid rise in data-driven technologies is shaping how many of us live–from biometric data collected by our smartwatches, artificial intelligence (AI) tools and models changing how we work, to social media algorithms that seem to know more about our content preferences than we do. Greater amounts of data are affecting all aspects of our lives, and indeed, society at large.

This explosion in data risks creating new inequalities, equipping a new set of “haves” who benefit from the power of data while excluding, or even harming, a set of “have-nots”–and splitting the international community into “data-poor” and “data-rich” worlds.

We know that data, when harnessed correctly, can be a powerful tool for sustainable development. Intelligent and innovative use of data can support public health systems, improve our understanding of climate change and biodiversity loss, anticipate crises, and tackle deep-rooted structural injustices such as racism and economic inequality.

However, the vast quantity of data is fueling an unregulated Wild West. Instead of simply issuing more warnings, governments must instead work toward good governance of data on a global scale. Due to the rapid pace of technological innovation, policies intended to protect society will inevitably fall behind. We need to be more ambitious.

To begin with, governments must ensure that the benefits derived from data are equitably distributed by establishing global ground rules for data collection, sharing, taxation, and re-use. This includes dealing with synthetic data and cross-border data flows…(More)”.

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