Who runs the world in 2027?

Cathleen Berger

Robotics, self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, human-implanted sensors and so much more that most of us can’t even picture yet: Technological developments have changed our ways of life. And they will continue to do so, with consequences that are difficult to anticipate. Nobody knows what the world is going to look like in 10 years. But aren’t we all curious?

On June 14, 2017 our working group of the Global Governance Futures fellowship launched its report on the future of data governance in a public discussion round in Berlin.

Looking 10 years ahead, our cohort developed three scenarios to picture the future state of data governance: one marching towards de-digitisation, one seeing the rise of the digital nation, and one concentrating on legal regimes and data harmonisation.

All of our scenarios looked into questions, such as: How will tech companies deal with their increasing power? To what degree will governments lose their influence? And what reactions will that trigger? To no surprise, when analysing the relationship between businesses and governments one of the dominating variables is “trust”. Trust between state and private sector, but also trust from consumers in these companies and their products, as well as citizens’ trust in the enforcement power of their governments. There are many more questions related to that, but we kept coming back to: Are we at the verge of increasing social and political disparities rather than empowering people all over the world? Who really benefits from access to the internet if we lose control of our data?

This opens up a window of opportunity for civil society organizations. They not only play a role in educating the public and fighting for civil liberties, but in facilitating dialogue between different stakeholders…” (GGF2027 Data Governance Report)

No doubt, none of these “futures” will come true exactly as depicted. Yet, thinking about these possibilities and trying to grasp the complexities of power in the digital age, has certainly served as a valuable stimulus to all of us.

In addition to our written findings, what the report can’t display are the conceptual, personal and intercultural challenges we had to tackle in order to get to these results. Working this closely with fellows from China, Germany, India, Japan, and the USA has taught us not just one lesson. Patience, open-mindedness and adaptability are the key to finding consensus — and they certainly don’t hurt when devising thoughtful policies for data governance.


With special thanks to GPPi and the Robert Bosch Foundation for making this possible — it was a fantastic experience and I am already looking forward to continuing to work together with my wonderful co-fellows!

Cathleen Berger

Written by

Policy Expert, focusing on human rights in the digital age, tech and security policy, and international relations

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