Q1/2019 - World Economic Forum (WEF)

Davos, 22 - 25 January 2019

The World Economic Forum 2019 featured even more sessions dealing with cyber security and the digital economy than preceding forums. Regardless of the international crises – from Syria to climate change – the two topics also were dominant in the speeches of the heads of states and governments. In the annual WEF’s Global Risks Report they were on rank two after the climate change.

The opening speech at the 2019 Annual Meeting was delivered by Shinzō Abe, Prime Minister of Japan. Japan took over the G20 presidency in 2019. In his speech, Abe put digital economy in the focus and suggested to take the opportunity of the G20 summit in June 2019 in Osaka to create a new global framework under the roof of the Word Trade Organization for enhancing digital trade and the Internet economy. He called it “data governance”. For the Osaka Fast Track, Abe suggested the acronym DFFT (Data Free Flow with Trust)[1].

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel followed up on Abe’s proposal and related it to the picture the French President Emmanuel Macron had painted at the IGF in Paris in November 2018 when he gave his view of the risks and opportunities of the Internet in the 2020s. Merkel spoke about data flow, data protection and data governance.

 “… in the world of big data, we’ve experienced a huge leap forward in the sphere of artificial intelligence. Here our task will be to put ethical guidelines in place. … Here too, we don’t yet have any global agreements. We have to find answers to these pressing questions. As yet, I don’t see a global architecture to deal with them. However, I cannot imagine that every major economic power is going to find different answers. Just look at the two major poles when it comes to data processing.

  1. On the one hand, we have the United States. There, data is largely in the hands of private stakeholders. That makes it difficult to set down guidelines which determine limits. My view is that the rules we had in the analogue world cannot be simply cast aside in the digital world. Rather, we need clear guidelines here, too.
  2. On the other hand, we have China. There the state has extensive access to all data – even personal data.
  3. Neither of these two very different approaches is in line with my own ideas or those which influenced Germany with its social market economy, ideas that include the protection of privacy.”

“For all its imperfections, the European Union set down guidelines on how to better regulate personal data with the adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation. That takes some effort; however, when the Industrial Revolution took place and people moved from the countryside into the cities, it was probably also difficult for them to carry around different sets of keys to open their own doors. These are civilisational developments which we have to go through. I therefore believe that we should certainly strive to protect a certain degree of privacy.”

“I was delighted when my Japanese colleague Shinzō Abe said here today that he would like to use Japan’s G20 Presidency to focus on data and to launch global data governance. I believe the G20 is a very good format in which to place this issue on the agenda of the largest industrialised nations on a comprehensive scale.” Merkel also touched on cyber security, fair taxation in the digital world and strengthening the digital economy in Europe[2].

UN Secretary General António Guterres pointed out in his keynote the impacts of the 4th industrial revolution and artificial intelligence, the need for political and legal framework conditions for digital cooperation and the endangerment of global peace an arms race in cyberspace would bring along. All these problems, he said, could only be saved by involving all stakeholderse in the process. The UN was a good platform for this.

With regard to artificial intelligence, Guterres said: “There will be a massive destruction of jobs and a massive creation of jobs. The problem is that they are not the same jobs and not requiring the same skills.”

On the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation established by him, Guterres remarks: “When I look at the web, it's clear that the web is a fantastic instrument for all of us. It's clear that we have the dark web and the deep web and all the problems of cybersecurity, etc. And the question of regulation is a very complex question in relation to this. My feeling is that there is no way to use the traditional mechanisms of intergovernmental regulations through conventions that are approved. I think that this is the kind of situation in which we need soft mechanisms. We need to bring together all stakeholders - governments, the business community, the scientific community, the civil society - and create mechanisms that allow for a permanent following of what's happening; for the consensus in creating some norms, some protocols, but not with rigid forms of bureaucracy of regulation; and creating with this the potential more and more for the web to be an instrument for good, and at the same time taking into account that the web is also a question that some governments are using from the point of view of violation of human rights, etc. So it is clear to me this cannot be only an intergovernmental process.”

With concern he finally looks at the growing militarization of cyberspace, “the weaponization of artificial intelligence. We have a general agreement that the international law applies to cyberspace. But there is no agreement on how international humanitarian law applies to the cyber dimension of conflicts. There is no agreement with what self-defence means in the case of cyber attacks. And on the other hand, we are witnessing the emergence of systems of weapons that will be autonomous, and in which it will possible for those weapons to decide on targets and to decide on taking the life of people, without any human intervention, in situations in which there is a risk of escalation and there is no accountability. Now how to handle these situations, this discussion is a discussion in which they are in the beginning; in which there are big differences of opinion; but these are the areas where we still need international law, and in a way the role of the United Nations. We need to find a minimum of consensus in the world on how to integrate these new technologies in the laws of war that were defined decades ago in a completely different context[3].”

Mehr zum Thema
  1. [1] “First off, I would like Osaka G20 to be long remembered as the summit that started world-wide data governance. Let Osaka G20 set in train a new track for looking at data governance -- call it the Osaka Track -- under the roof of the WTO. Osaka G20 will be the summit that started world-wide data governance. The time to do so is ripe as we all know that for decades to come, it will be digital data driving our economy forward. We had better act now, because coming into being every single day is more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data, which is, according to one estimate, as much as two hundred fifty thousand times the printed material in the U.S. Library of Congress. A delay of one year means we will be light years behind. We must, on one hand, be able to put our personal data and data embodying intellectual property, national security intelligence, and so on, under careful protection, while on the other hand, we must enable the free flow of medical, industrial, traffic and other most useful, non-personal, anonymous data to see no borders, repeat, no borders. The regime we must build is one for D.F.F.T., Data Free Flow with Trust -- non-personal data, needless to say. It is not the big, capital intensive industries, but rather we individuals who will benefit from both the fourth industrial revolution and what we call “Society 5.0” which this fourth industrial revolution will bring about. In Society 5.0, it is no longer capital but data that connects and drives everything, helping to fill the gap between the rich and the less privileged. Services of medicine and education, from elementary to tertiary, will reach small villages in the Sub Saharan region. Girls who have given up going to school will see, beyond their own village, a wider horizon where the sky is the limit. Our task is obvious. We must make data a great gap buster. Through AI, IoT and robotics, the data-driven Society 5.0 will bring about a new reality for urbanity. Our cities will be made much more livable for all sorts of people from all walks of life. To that end, the promise I made 5 years ago still holds today, that I will continue to work as a drill bit, drilling right through outdated regulations to change them. The engine for growth, if you think about it, is fueled no longer by gasoline, but more and more by digital data. When we say, we need to change the WTO, we are still thinking about goods, agricultural or otherwise, for which distances and borders matter. We have yet to catch up with the new reality, in which data drives everything, where the D.F.F.T., the Data Free Flow with Trust, should top the agenda in our new economy. In a sense, it's all déjà-vu. When John D. Rockefeller was building Standard Oil, no one knew what to do with gasoline. Dumped into the nearby Cuyahoga River, gasoline caused fires many times. It took 3 to 4 decades before we humans came to know the value of gasoline. About 20 years into the twentieth century, gasoline was running cars and flying airplanes. It is the same, isn't it, about data. Around 1995, we started to use the Internet on a massive scale, but it was almost 20 years into the 21st century that we found data driving our economy. Why not start the Osaka Track, and make it a very fast track? It will be great if every one of us, from the U.S., Europe, Japan, China, and India, to leap frogging countries in Africa, share our efforts and our successes in breathing fresh life into the WTO.” See: Speech by Shinzō Abe at the World Economic Forum in Davos, 23 January 2019, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/abe-speech-transcript/
  2. [2] “We’re also faced with the major issue of fair taxation in the digital world. I’m very much in favour of the proposals currently being drawn up in the OECD, and I believe that we can achieve greater fairness and clarity in the sphere of taxation if we combine minimal taxation with what the G20 Finance Ministers have come up with – the BEPS system. Of course, we shouldn’t by any means leave this to chance. Since our difficulties with the NSA back in 2014 or 2013, Germany has tried time and again in the UN General Assembly and in the UN Human Rights Council to sponsor resolutions aimed at addressing the privacy of data in the digital age. North and South are working well together, as you might say, for Germany and Brazil are trying in cooperation with Mexico, Austria and many others to define ever more clearly how to move forward in this sphere. But I cannot deny that this has been a laborious process.” Speech by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, Davos, 23 January 2019. See: https://www.bundeskanzlerin.de/bkin-en/news/speech-by-federal-chancellor-angela-merkel-at-the-49th-world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-in-davos-on-23-january-2019-1574188
  3. [3] Speech by UN Secretary General António Guterres at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, Davos, 23 January 2019, see: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/these-are-the-global-priorities-and-risks-for-the-future-according-to-antonio-guterres/