Data is a key driver for economic development, but opportunities to benefit from it are unequally distributed. As we look towards the future of data governance, we must consider how different futures might emerge and how we can prepare for them. We developed four scenarios exploring the future of data governance in 2050 to support the High-level Committee of Programs (HLCP) working on digital public goods. The aim is to mitigate global risks, identify opportunities, and highlight the costs of inaction for the international community. The scenarios were developed through a highly consultative and participatory process, including expert interviews, a global survey and a foresight workshop during the Dubai Futures Forum 2022.

Our impact

Scenarios are not meant to be predictions. They are a tool to engage in dialogues exploring the implications of alternative futures for different stakeholders and geographies, and strengthen long-term thinking about data governance. To develop the scenarios in a diverse and inclusive way, UN Global Pulse worked with 35 experts, surveyed another 200 experts from different continents and collaborated with several technical partners. Building upon the scenarios, UN Global Pulse developed a foresight game, the Scenario Exploration System, that builds upon the best practices from the European Commission’s Joint Research Center to further stimulate stakeholder engagement on this topic.

Our lessons

  • Scenarios spark critical thinking about our assumptions about the future. This helped future-proof HLCP’s thematic work on digital public goods.
  • Scenarios are a great vehicle to have meaningful conversations about the future and expand our understanding of what could potentially happen, as well as the costs of inaction by the international community.
  • We experimented with contextualising existing game-based foresight formats to ensure that all stakeholders’ voices were considered, promoting a better understanding of how different futures might play out for different regions.