Tech Trade: The Third Pillar of International Trade

By Kealan Finnegan

UKIBC were joined by DIT, DCMS, ICO, RELX, TheCityUK, University of Essex, Tata Limited, and Royal Society of Chemistry for an insightful discussion on the prospects and existing barriers for UK-India data relations.

UKIBC has advocated for a bilateral common data agreement between the UK and India. That is, the UK and Indian governments must work together to ensure an arrangement that is beneficial for both nations, which a common data agreement would accomplish.

At this roundtable, we discussed a number of pressing issues, from barriers to business and higher education demands, to the scope for a long-term Common Data Agreement.

We heard from Tata Limited on the example of healthcare to explore the huge potential of data. Though data is becoming increasingly prevalent, easy to access, and databases are ever growing, there is clearly barriers to this enormous potential. In the healthcare sector, UK expertise to merge technology with healthcare in diagnostics would seem to offer a solution to Indian healthcare shortages looking after more than 1.3 billion people. Yet, this action remains only potential due to UK-India discrepancies on data legislation.

As UKIBC CEO, Richard Heald, recognised, a framework that facilitates data flows and end points for UK and India in, for example, health care, education and financial services, would be a substantial development.

Global levels of data development, incorporating data legislation, regulations, digitalisation and AI for instance, are varying. Rather than pushing the UK view and practices, the UK should look to build bridges with India and other nations, according to the ICO. Thereby, not homogeneity in law but the establishment of trust between jurisdictions. Furthermore, it is vital that data protection is ensured while creating and transitioning to new data laws.

Data protection must be the foundation for the development of data agreements. Recent events such as the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal have generated a trust deficit in the UK and globally. It is important not to lose consumer confidence in digital technology. HMG is supportive of the free flow of data, as long as data security is high. Thereby, data security is a pre-requisite for a Common Data Agreement.

The University of Essex, representing the UK Higher Education sector, presented a number of challenges they are facing. Loose rules of law can lead to misuse of data, an important action to avoid considering the data of thousands of prospective, current and ex-students that universities hold. Furthermore, the post-study working visa extension will increase the popularity of UK universities in India and therefore increase the number of applications and subsequently accepted Indian students to the books of universities, thereby increasing the transfer of UK-India educational data.

RELX noted that business practices and consumer patterns are already based on a platform of data exchange. For example, checks on terrorist financing and anti-money laundering require transfers and storage of data. Ensuring reasonable exemptions for barriers on data processing for the public and business is important.

A Common Data Agreement would help to ensure that data flows are reciprocal. While existing agreements with ‘adequate’ countries enables one-way flows, it is important that future trade relationships are built on reciprocity.

UKIBC will raise these key points with both UK and Indian governments. Our CEO, Richard, will hold talks with Mr Piyush Goyal, Indian minister of Railways and Commerce, when he visits India later this month. Likewise, UK Government are interested in hearing the views and interests of business and NGOs on data, which UKIBC are happy to facilitate.

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