The next Big Data battlefield: Server Geography

Maroosha Muzaffar at OZY: “At the G-20 summit last June, when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe introduced a resolution endorsing the free flow of data across borders, India, South Africa and Indonesia refused to sign it. India’s then foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale described data as a “new form of wealth” to explain the country’s reluctance to part with it.

It wasn’t an isolated standoff. President Donald Trump’s trade war with China and tariff battles with India and Europe dominated the global financial discourse in the months before the coronavirus crisis. But the next trade conflict after the pandemic eases is already brewing, and it won’t involve only tariffs on products. It’ll be focused on territorial control of data.

A growing number of emerging economies with giant populations, like China, India, Nigeria, Indonesia and South Africa, are leveraging the markets they offer to demand that foreign firms keep the data they gather from these countries within their borders, and not on servers in the West. That’s leading to rising tensions over “data localization,” especially with the U.S., which has an overall global trade deficit but enjoys a massive trade surplus in digital services — in good measure because of its control over global data, say experts.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi dangled his country’s 1.3 billion-strong market during a visit to the U.S. last September, calling data the “new gold.” China has 13 data localization laws that span all sectors of life — all data on Chinese nationals and infrastructure must be stored within the country. Nigeria has a similar requirement. An Indian government panel has meanwhile recommended that New Delhi do the same…(More)”.