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5 December 2019, Gateway House

New norms for globalisation’s digital challenges

Rohinton Medhora, President, Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), Waterloo, Canada, and co-host of the second edition of the India-Canada Track 1.5 Dialogue in Mumbai, spoke to Gateway House on how data management and governance around new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, are the issues of the future

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Gateway House (GH): What are the most important policy issues with respect to globalisation that need attention?

Rohinton Medhora (RM): In globalisation, old questions intermingle with new ones. It’s not as if we’ve resolved issues such as refugees, or sovereign debt management. But we also have new questions, and of these, climate change is certainly a pressing one. Then we have forward-looking issues to do with data management and governance around new technologies, Artificial Intelligence, in particular. So, everything we now do has to be seen through the digital lens.

When our current institutions were created in 1944 and 1945, we didn’t really anticipate this level of global interaction, so we don’t even have the right institutions, let alone imperfect ones. We have to really create them and, in some ways, as we say at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), we are at ‘a Bretton Woods moment’ when it comes to digital governance.

GH: What role can India and Canada play bilaterally and in multilateral forums for global governance?

RM: Let’s begin with data, which I think is a pressing issue. Currently, the world is balkanised in three blocs. We have the state-centric China bloc, we have the firm-centric U.S. bloc, and then we have the, more or less, person-centric General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) zone in the EU. These three blocs are not compatible with each other. They are based on fundamentally different premises of what data is, who owns it, and who might manage or control it. Then we have countries that are outside these three zones, such as Canada and India.

So, on that subject, there is a common interest that many countries have in the world to either join one of these zones, which I think is an imperfect solution, or create a system in which these three zones can at least talk to each other and have some form of minimum compatibility.

There are many areas such as World Trade Organization (WTO) reform, in which Canada and India can play – and are playing – a constructive role to resuscitate a system and an institution that is languishing because the larger powers are not doing their share.

I can think of other areas such as climate change, where again India and Canada could take the lead. India has a global opportunity to do so as it enters its G20 presidency in 2022, but, in fact, has already begun making noises in that regard.

Rohinton P. Medhora is President, Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), Canada.

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