Digital investments are data investments; with long term consequences as the amount and demand for data continues to grow. Potential harm from unprotected, biased, and/or low quality data continues to be of concern, while emerging technologies such as generative AI raise new questions around data ownership, the ethical use of data, and intellectual property rights, among others. 

In response, many countries are passing data protection legislation to outline restrictions on the collection, storage, and usage of personal data by the private sector and governments alike, with fines and legal penalties for violations. Communities and civil society are engaged in debate on the ethical and fair use of data, and the global community is seeking to balance support for free flow of data with the need to trust and protect data from misuse. 

Data governance encompasses the decision-making authority needed to optimize data, minimize risks, and promote accountability within and across data ecosystems. Data governance addresses goals related to data quality, interoperability, usage and legal compliance, particularly in multi-stakeholder environments. Responsible data governance goes beyond these goals to include broader development values, such as inclusivity, participation, accountability and transparency, human rights, privacy, and other ethical considerations.

Data governance is broad and has implications for both emerging technologies and every development sector. It is a rapidly evolving topic, with differing levels of implementation and approaches. USAID’s Data Governance Initiative aims to improve global, national, organizational, sectoral, and alternative models of data governance in support of its digital development goals and partners.

At the national level, our priorities include efforts to implement robust data governance regulation and policies to better meet complex compliance challenges while protecting human rights, enabling the digital economy, improving data use in USAID partner countries, and supporting data free flows and trade; resulting in stronger national data ecosystems. 

At the organizational level, we support USAID’s Chief Information Office on the implementation of data governance protocols critical to the integrity of our agency’s programs and practices. Our priorities include USAID’s partners using data responsibly, protecting the rights of USAID data subjects, and the use of USAID’s data for evidence-based decision-making. 

By raising the profile of data governance and providing both tools and technical assistance to extract its benefits, the initiative helps development practitioners effectively navigate the road to digital transformation.

Download the Responsible Data Governance for Digital Development document.

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