Our increasingly digital world generates enormous volumes of data. Data are the by-product of every tap on a smartphone, scroll through a website or swipe of a credit card. Devices abound in everyday life that collect information about people and phenomena. It has never been easier or cheaper to process these data, store them for future use, or share them with others.

Through the Going Digital project, the OECD identified data as a key driver of economic and social value. We see this across our areas of work: data drive scientific research and fuel artificial intelligence. Firms invest in data, and measuring that investment is a focus of the statistical community. Data can confer competitive advantage and contribute to market power, while trade agreements now often feature provisions on data flows. Finally, as demonstrated by the COVID-19 crisis, data can help track the spread of disease and target health service delivery.

At the same time, data can be misused and abused in ways that can harm individuals and organisations. These possibilities and pitfalls mean that the way data are governed affects the ability of our societies and economies to develop, grow and respond to global challenges, from future pandemics to climate change. Policy makers increasingly seek guidance on how to best design appropriate policies for data governance in a complex and evolving policy and technological landscape.

Drawing on fundamental commonalities for data governance across policy areas, the Going Digital Guide to Data Governance Policy Making (hereafter the Guide) helps policy- and decision-makers develop, revise and implement policies for data governance in the digital age. The Guide uncovers the policy tensions that underpin data governance and proposes policy options for balancing openness and control, the interests of different stakeholders, and the need for incentives to invest in data and their effective re-use.

Drawing on concrete examples from countries’ policies and practices, as well as the guidance of OECD legal instruments, the Guide provides a checklist to orient data governance policymaking. In so doing, the Guide advances policy action to realise the benefits of data governance for growth and well-being.


Ulrik Vestergaard Knudsen

OECD Deputy Secretary-General


Andrew Wyckoff

Director of Science, Technology and Innovation


Carmine di Noia

Director of Financial and Enterprise Affairs


Marion Jansen

Director of Trade and Agriculture


Stefano Scarpetta

Director of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs


Paul Schreyer

Chief Statistician and Director of Statistics and Data

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