Singapore, U.S. Jointly Promote Cross-Border Data Flow

Intel has long urged governments to promote access to data.   Singapore and the U.S. are both walking the talk.  On February 6, 2020, officials from Singapore’s Monetary Authority and U.S. Department of Treasury convened in Singapore to discuss the importance of the free-flow of data across international borders, specifically with respect to financial services (FinTech).  The two countries ultimately issued a joint statement supporting cross-border data transfers while broadly opposing data localization requirements.

It’s no wonder why both Singapore and the U.S. were ranked among the top five governments in the world for their overall Artificial Intelligence (AI) readiness.[1]   As access to large and reliable datasets is paramount to the design, development, and deployment of AI,  the agreement between these two AI trailblazers signals each country’s commitment to promoting the adoption and implementation of policies that (i) safeguard cross-border electronic data transfers, (ii) resist constraints against where data can be moved, stored, and processed (assuming regulators have access), and (iii) remediate against a lack of access to data (before data localization requirements are implemented).

The joint statement outlined a commitment by both countries to “expand the use of data in financial services” as a way to offer “greater consumer choice, enhanced risk management capabilities, and increased efficiency.”  Moreover, the position outlined in the joint statement aligns well with industry perspectives on cross border data flows:

“Data localization requirements can increase cybersecurity and other operational risks, hinder risk management and compliance, and inhibit financial regulatory and supervisory access to information.  Data mobility in financial services supports economic growth and the development of innovative financial services and benefits risk management and compliance programs, including by making it easier to detect cross-border money laundering and terrorist financing patterns, defend against cyberattacks, and manage and assess risk on a global basis.”[2]

While the joint statement does not create either domestic or international legal instruments binding either country to obligations under law, it does establish an innovative and inclusive framework for bilateral and multi-economic collaboration and cooperation:   innovative in how the recent global trend of data localization is confronted; inclusive in their intentions “to share information on developments related to these issues and, as appropriate, encourage third countries to adopt policies consistent with this joint statement.”

I applaud this collaborative effort. FinTech produces vast amounts of data, which is valuable as a resource for the digital economy. It is not only used as a prized raw asset for the production of data services and applications but also brings greater efficiency to the delivery of public services and evidence-based decision making. A few years ago, Intel postured that governments should lead the charge in defining open data strategies for the public and private sector to embrace;  to provide the tools and guidance to support global adoption. This joint agreement exemplifies a collaborative approach for other countries around the world to consider as they enhance their own data policies to foster innovation and improve public sector services.

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[1] Oxford Insights:  Government Artificial Intelligence Readiness Index 2019.  Singapore ranked #1.  The United States ranked # 4.
[2] U.S. Department of the Treasury, Statements & Remarks:  United States – Singapore Joint Statement on Financial Services Data Connectivity, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm899