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Chasing Innovation: Insights Into International Data Governance

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Kiersten Farmer
October 20, 2023


Whether planned or accidental, technological innovations are born out of, and inevitably chased by, policy. When significant innovation emerges, policymakers must adapt by creating (or adjusting) boundaries and controls. These measures can nurture, discipline or pacify innovation’s impacts on society, the economy or the environment. In the United States, for example, privacy laws, cybersecurity standards and regulations against monopolistic practices have arisen to ensure responsible conduct.

AI continues to reshape the landscape of data utilization, and we are scrambling after it. This paradigm shift underscores the urgent need for data governance to adapt swiftly to maintain relevant guidance. In response, countries around the globe have adopted a variety of data governance approaches. While considering the innovation and its potential impact, each is shaped differently by national values, regional priorities and geopolitical considerations.

The European Union’s (EU) Data Governance Act (DGA)

The EU’s Data Governance Act (DGA), proposed by the European Commission, marks a pivotal advancement in data governance. It aims to foster collaboration while safeguarding data privacy and security. The DGA establishes a robust framework for secure data-sharing among businesses and governments. A key innovation is the introduction of ‘data intermediaries,’ which facilitate secure data-sharing among stakeholders and unleash data-driven innovation for economic growth and societal advancement.

The DGA strongly emphasizes embedding data protection and privacy principles from the outset, aligning with the EU’s stringent privacy standards. This sets a precedent for responsible data governance in the digital age, balancing data accessibility and protection. This legislation guides the judicious and responsible use of data in our interconnected world that harnesses the benefits of data-driven innovation while safeguarding individuals’ privacy and data security.

China’s National Data Bureau (NDB)

China’s data governance approach is anchored by the NDB, a regulatory authority central to the nation’s tech-driven ambitions. Responsible for overseeing data collection, storage and usage, the NDB strongly emphasizes data governance, with a focus on data localization and security. This approach mandates that companies retain data within borders, a policy driven by national security concerns and the desire for increased control over sensitive data.

In parallel, China is aggressively pursuing leadership in transformative technologies such as AI and 5G, where data assumes a paramount role. This dual pursuit poses a complex challenge, requiring a delicate balance between data security, fostering innovation and driving economic growth. Moreover, China’s data governance approach reverberates beyond its national borders, setting a precedent for global data management. As China’s role continues to evolve on the global tech stage, its approach serves as a compelling case study, illuminating the complex dynamics of data management.

India’s National Data Management Office (NDMO)

India’s data governance journey seamlessly aligns with its broader digital aspirations as driven by the advent of the NDMO. The NDMO embodies India’s unwavering commitment to ensuring secure, responsible and efficient data management. Data localization is also central to this endeavor. This strategic approach not only bolsters data security but also fuels economic growth while invigorating the development of domestic data infrastructure.

Beyond its borders, the NDMO’s influence reverberates, echoing India’s expanding role in the global digital arena. It’s a pertinent example of the universal challenge of harmonizing data security, innovation and effective governance. In essence, India’s NDMO epitomizes a forward-looking paradigm in data governance. It harmoniously integrates data security, innovation and responsible data stewardship and serves as a resolute response to the nation’s multifaceted concerns surrounding optimal utilization.

Saudi Arabia’s National Data Management Office (NDMO)

Saudi Arabia demonstrates its commitment to data governance with its establishment of the NDMO. This initiative marks a significant stride toward harnessing data as a strategic national asset. The NDMO was launched as part of the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority’s comprehensive strategy. It aims to set the highest standards in data governance, orchestrating secure and responsible data management across the nation. The NDMO prioritizes data compliance and standards and establishes a unified framework for data management in alignment with international best practices to achieve its mission.

Saudi Arabia’s NDMO fosters a culture of data excellence and innovation by standardizing data practices and ensuring data quality. This paves the way for leveraging data to catalyze digital transformation, economic diversification and technological advancement. The NDMO extends its efforts, positioning Saudi Arabia as a valuable partner in the global data community.


In the relentless chase of technological innovation, global data governance persists, considering both AI innovation’s inherent circumstances and its environmental context to foster growth while safeguarding against potential harms. The EU’s DGA nurtures collaboration while safeguarding privacy and security, while China’s NDB emphasizes data security amid technological ambition. India’s NDMO balances nurturing innovation with responsible data management. Saudi Arabia’s NDMO contributes to global data excellence and collaboration. In this evolving pursuit, we observe the intricate interplay of nature and nurture, where innovation is both nurtured and disciplined. Navigating this complex data governance landscape, the relentless chase of technological progress continues, shaping our interconnected digital world.

Author: Kiersten Farmer is an accomplished data professional and speaker, committed to empowering state and local governments. With nearly 20 years in public administration, she excels in optimizing operational efficiency and strategy through data and technology. Kiersten specializes in creating comprehensive methodologies for evaluating processes, sharing insights, and enhancing administrative procedures. Holding degrees from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University and the University of Maryland, she is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Kiersten’s mission extends to fostering technological equity and translating ideas into impactful actions. Contact her at [email protected] or connect on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kiersten-farmer/ to collaborate on driving positive community transformation.

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