Global Data Access Framework

The Global Data Access Framework (GDAF) is an initiative to use the power of big data and artificial intelligence (AI) to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As referenced in the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for digital cooperation, GDAF is one of the examples of multistakeholder initiative which aims to create a platform for sharing digital public goods in a manner that respects privacy.

Its main objective is to enable data sharing across the public and private sector in a privacy-protective manner by helping to develop and scale AI-driven projects. The GDAF is co-led by UN Global Pulse, The Future Society’s AI Initiative, and McKinsey & Company’s Noble Intelligence initiative and has over seventy stakeholders including major technology firms, academic institutions, NGOs, and UN agencies.

The GDAF (formerly referred to as the Global Data Commons) emerged from and is part of the AI Commons initiative of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which was initially formulated at the 2018 AI for Good Global Summit. The GDAF further evolved through multiple consultations during 2019, including at the World Government Summit in Dubai in February, the AI for Good Global Summit in Geneva in May, and the UN General Assembly in New York City in September.

At the World Government Summit, stakeholders developed a structured use case-driven approach and a three-year plan for implementing the GDAF based on over 40 position papers that were written by partners in the initiative. At the AI for Good Global Summit, stakeholders mapped existing initiatives that encourage data sharing that the GDAF should build upon and tap into. In addition, stakeholders agreed on the preliminary technical requirements and data governance considerations for the GDAF. The third workshop at the UN General Assembly centered on identifying the SDGs that the GDAF’s initial reference cases should address and describing the technical capabilities required to pilot the GDAF.

The GDAF aims to transform data discoverability by establishing a global platform for data sharing that utilizes various protocols for exchanging data. The GDAF will rely upon a state-of-the-art reference architecture that will be developed through a collaborative multi-stakeholder effort and will enable data to be discovered by AI systems more easily. Through this mechanism, the GDAF intends to enable entrepreneurs, academics, and governments to unlock the potential for big data and AI for good.

The GDAF will substantially contribute to innovative data governance models not only by advancing robust requirements for privacy protections for all data sharing but also by incorporating novel technical solutions to better protect data. This dimension of the GDAF will draw upon UN Global Pulse’s experience in working with governments and technology companies in developing privacy-protecting data governance frameworks. 

UN Global Pulse as a co- champion on implementing Recommendation 1B of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation on digital public goods, sees GDAF as a platform that facilitates data sharing, which in turn speeds up processes for creating quality digital public goods.


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