Data governance, Asian alternatives: how India and Korea are creating new models and policies



Growing concerns about digital authoritarianism have led many observers to postulate that a tug of war between democracy and autocracy is about to shape the governance of technology and data. In this calculation, the world’s democracies are said to have open approaches that rely on market mechanisms. In contrast, global autocracies privilege the role of the state and aim to enhance its ability to harness all data, public and private.

But this binary framing begs the extent to which democracies have developed diverse approaches. Some democracies, particularly in Asia, have adapted policy and regulatory arrangements that deepen and extend the reach of the state. Some democracies, again particularly in Asia, have developed data governance regimes that reflect the unique characteristics of their institutions and political cultures. It is important to dig into this diversity, especially at a time of increasing focus on data policy at international and national levels.

This volume clearly shows that the world is not fracturing into just two spheres – an autocratic China-dominated Sinosphere and an open, democratic sphere centered on the transatlantic West. In place, third Countries, many of which are consolidated democracies, are influencing debates over data policy, tech company business models, and regulatory frameworks. If these countries can collaborate, harness the power of open standards and open source software, and demonstrate new approaches to digital development, they could become leaders in their own right in the next phase of the data economy.

The following chapters highlight some of the alternative models that have emerged in two major Asian democracies, India and South Korea (hereafter, Korea). Comparing the distinct approaches of these two countries through case studies shows how far more complex the world will be than the mundane prediction of a battle between US-centric and China-centric approaches.

This volume is the continuation of a 2021 study, The Korean way with data, a multi-chapter deep dive into three critical aspects of Korea’s distinctive experiences with data: data resilience, data location and privacy, and online authentication and data access control. This follow-up volume expands and expands on this earlier work stream by explicitly comparing Korea’s experience in two areas – open data and cross-border data governance – with that of India, a leader in software services and technology. information (IT).

Put simply, for those who believe the world faces a stark or binary choice between Atlantic-centric democratic models or China-centric authoritarian models, this volume should be a revelation. Like the 2021 volume on Korea, this study demonstrates that other players are leading the way in several key respects. India and Korea are both consolidated democracies, and neither of them is content to imitate American or European experiences. Instead, they are pioneering their own approaches, mixing and matching elements of their unique democratic institutional frameworks with national demands and policies derived from distinct political cultures.

Major Asian democracies like India and Korea are not just following the lead of the United States and Europe in data governance. Instead, in many areas connecting to both open data and cross-border data, they are pioneering their own unique approaches, firmly rooted in their own consolidated democratic institutions. Much can be learned — and some things can be emulated — from the experiences of these two unique and important Asian democracies.