Canada's digital transition depends on new data value chains and standards, says expert
October 2, 2019
Canada needs new data value chains and standards to enhance competitiveness of the economy and improve delivery of services such as health care, according to a policy brief by the Waterloo-based Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).
“If Canada is serious about becoming a digital economy, it needs to develop a new architecture in order to support systematic data collection and grading, data access and sharing, and data analytics among a wide variety of organizations,” writes Michel Girard, a CIGI senior fellow, former VP strategy at the Standards Council of Canada, and an expert on technical standards governing big data and AI.
By collecting, sharing and analyzing data from multiple sources, participants in existing supply chains can gain new insights about market trends, remove bottlenecks, streamline logistics, gain efficiencies, improve quality and enhance the competitiveness of key sectors of the economy, Girard says.
Standards are required to clarify the role and responsibilities of participants in data value chains, he argues. Standards are also necessary to achieve interoperability and set appropriate benchmarks for data governance — both necessary preconditions for data sharing between organizations. “Standards serve as a ‘handshake’ between various components of systems.”
Industry and thought leaders from many sectors of the economy have argued for the creation of new data value chains. The overview report from Canada’s Economic Strategy Tables states: “All economic sectors must be digital sectors. Bold adoption of digital platform technologies will enable us to leapfrog other countries.”
However, the Economic Strategy Tables “Digital Industries” report says new policies are needed to
- balance privacy and data protection with commercial value in international markets;
- consider and protect data ethics; and
- promote equity and quality in the age of algorithms.
“The right standards could create a level playing field and also help Canada’s fledging digital industry sector to scale up,” says Girard.
Cross-cutting data value chains and foundational standards needed
[rs_quote credit="Michel Girard" source="senior fellow, Centre for International Governance Innovation"]If Canada wants its fledging digital industry sector to play a meaningful role in delivering solutions, as opposed to foreign-owned tech giants, it needs to take the lead in developing the required standards both nationally and internationally.[/rs_quote]
Data value chains that cut across organizations currently do not exist, Girard notes. The vast majority of data analytics work in Canada takes place within single organizations. “The risks and uncertainties associated with data sharing between organizations, even between divisions or branches in the same organization, are inhibiting data sharing.”
Girard says that foundational standards framing data collection and grading; data access, storage and retention; and data analytics and solutions will need to provide guidance to organizations in the following areas:
- ownership/intellectual property/copyright;
- data quality and valuation;
- safe use;
- cyber security;
- data sovereignty and residency;
- professional credentials and accountability (for data engineers/data controllers/data scientists/data valuation and assurance); and
- privacy/human rights/digital identity.
Integrating digitization into operations, supply chains, logistics and infrastructure among multiple organizations will require an “unprecedented effort” toward standardization in order to succeed, according to Girard. “Moreover, if Canada wants its fledging digital industry sector to play a meaningful role in delivering solutions, as opposed to foreign-owned tech giants, it needs to take the lead in developing the required standards both nationally and internationally.”
As an immediate next step, Girard recommends consulting participants about the adequacy of the model he proposes for creating data value chains. Relevant government departments and agencies could launch pilot projects aimed at resolving issues affecting supply chains through data analytics.
As an intermediate step, Girard says organizations such as Chartered Professional Accounts (CPA) Canada may be interested in providing guidance about data assets valuation and development of new standards in a way that can be managed by both SMEs and large organizations alike. CPA Canada could also serve as a designated training agency to frame the certification of data valuation and data assurance professionals.
Likewise, the CIO Strategy Council (CIOSC) or other accredited standards development organizations could begin work on foundational standards — for data collection and grading; data access, storage and retention; and data analytics and solutions — “in order to provide much-needed guidance on how to set up and connect these essential new functions to transform Canada into a digital economy."