Alex Benay, Partner, Digital and Government Solutions, KPMG in Canada
Over the past decade, the world has steadily been shifting from a resource-based economy to a data-driven one. This transition is having major effects on countries all over the world.
In many jurisdictions, the digital economy represents a massive growth opportunity. But at the same time, the common thinking is that it also poses significant risks to citizens – commercialization of private data, cyberbreaches, identity theft and inequality owing to the lack of connectivity in many regions. It seems that for every digital economy opportunity, there is a digital risk to a citizen.
Based on the online rhetoric, it appears as though one needs to choose between the two – growth or rights.
But there should be no tension between the concepts of expanding our digital economy while simultaneously creating new digital citizen rights. But for this to be true in Canada, we need action from both the private and public sector. Otherwise, the world is changing at such a rapid pace that we are at risk of being left behind as both a country and as digital citizens.
So what are basic digital rights? For starters, they are laws not policy instruments. Digital rights need to have teeth – they cannot be mere strategy documents.
First, in order to participate in the digital economy, citizens need connectivity as a basic human right. Connectivity would provide all Canadians access to digital services and the ability to participate in the new data-driven economy.
With connectivity as a basic human right in Canada, there would be no reason why one cannot have a tech unicorn in a Canadian region outside of the traditional major city centres. Hyperconnectivity would permit all ideas and all citizens to contribute to Canada’s innovation economy.
Second, citizens must retain ownership of their data in this digital economy. Citizens should not be commercialized by any platform without their consent – full stop. Otherwise, Canadians will not be able to reap the benefits of the data driven economy because they lack the control over their biggest asset – their own personal data. If we are to ever reach this goal of ownership of one’s own data, it is now time to update, and in some cases, rewrite our laws to reflect the new digital reality.
Privacy laws, for example, are not equipped to deal with digital-aged constructs, many of which were written in the industrial age. Instead of modern privacy laws that enable secure data sharing across sectors, or trusted digital wallets that would permit control of one’s online activities, we have policies and procedures based on fax machine transmissions. This prohibits secure data sharing while ensuring data multiplication and a slower economy. It means our businesses cannot build the right infrastructure required to support privacy in a digital age because our laws impede the innovation.
A critical example in the context of this new digital economy will be the openness of those holding our data. Traditionally, we see intellectual property and openness as opposing factors. Yet, we cannot operate in a digital economy without providing openness of digital rights and economic opportunity. Too often we see companies use intellectual property as a blocker for releasing their algorithms to the public. But protecting citizen rights in the digital age and economic growth are not necessarily at odds. As the data economy grows, the companies who operate with a higher degree of openness will likely profit more.
So where does this leave us?
We need our governments to double their current efforts to address the hard items getting in the way of both digital prosperity and the rights of Canadians. Laws must be changed, regulations adjusted and policies must reflect the new digital economy – and at a much faster pace.
We must also invest one dollar in digital infrastructure for every dollar we invest in roads and bridges to ensure Canada can compete in this data-driven economy.
Looking ahead, sectors must begin to work better together in order to increase the speed of the economy in order to remain internationally competitive.
Canada should provide a model to the world highlighting that human rights are now also digital rights, and that this new reality does not need to compete with advancing economic interests.
The country that sets the stage for digital economic growth while protecting citizen rights will win the race.
Some of the world's biggest economies are on the brink of recession – CNN
President Trump heads to India as trade tensions simmer
Economy will be 'strong factor' aiding Trump's re-election despite Boeing hit, Mnuchin says – CNBC
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin attends a session at the Congres center during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, on January 21, 2020.
FABRICE COFFRINI | AFP via Getty Images
The strength of the U.S. economy will prove to be an important factor when voters head to the polls in November, according to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, despite a slew of headwinds that could weigh on growth this year.
Mnuchin warned earlier this month that U.S. growth may not hit Trump’s pledged 3% growth in GDP (gross domestic product) in 2020.
Speaking to CNBC at the G-20 Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday, Mnuchin said disruptions at Boeing could cause a 50 basis point drag on growth, compounded by General Motors strikes and the potential impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
“But the real impact in terms of the American economy, wages are going up, more jobs are being created and more people are coming back into the workforce than ever before,” Mnuchin told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble.
“(GDP) is a global statistic, the statistic people really care about is are they working, are they getting more jobs, are they getting more pay? And on that basis, we’re getting all As.”
U.S. unemployment recently hit a 50-year low, continuing a consistent downward trend set in motion in 2010. Real average hourly earnings for all private nonfarm employees increased 0.6% from January 2019 to January 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“The change in real average hourly earnings combined with a 0.6-percent decrease in the average workweek resulted in essentially no change in real average weekly earnings over this period,” the Bureau said in a report Friday.
Mnuchin told CNBC he saw the economy being a very “strong factor” in the president’s re-election. “And as you look at the U.S. economy relative to the world economy, the U.S. is the bright spot on world growth,” he said.
China braces for inevitable big hit to economy from virus, says Xi – Financial Post
BEIJING — China will step up policy adjustments to help cushion the blow on the economy from a coronavirus outbreak that authorities are still trying to control, President Xi Jinping was quoted as saying on Sunday.
The situation is showing a positive trend after arduous efforts but there is no room for “weariness and relaxed mentality” among officials, state television quoted him as saying.
“At present, the epidemic situation is still severe and complex, and prevention and control work is in the most difficult and critical stage,” Xi said.
“The outbreak of novel coronavirus pneumonia will inevitably have a relatively big impact on the economy and society,” Xi said, adding that the impact would be short-term and controllable.
The outbreak is one of the most serious public health crises to confront Chinese leaders in decades.
“For us, this is a crisis and is also a big test,” Xi said.
Chinese policymakers have implemented a raft of measures to support an economy jolted by the virus, which is expected to have a devastating impact on first-quarter growth.
Low-risk provinces should focus on restoring work and production in an all-round way, provinces with medium-level risks should aim for an orderly work resumption, while high-risk regions should focus on epidemic controls, Xi said.
The government would step up policy support to help achieve economic and social development targets for 2020, Xi said.
China would maintain a prudent monetary policy and roll out new policy steps in a timely way, he said, adding the government would also study and roll out phased tax cuts to help tide small firms over difficulties.
The government would also take steps to support flexible employment and help college graduates to find jobs, Xi added. (Reporting by Yingzhi Yang and Kevin Yao; Editing by Frances Kerry and Alex Richardson)
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