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Accepted Paper:

Reproducing Beijing’s data governance regime? data localisation and infrastructural control in north Africa  
Tin Hinane El Kadi (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how digital data is collected, processed, and managed in two Huawei-built data centres in Egypt and Algeria, both of which have adopted data governance frameworks pressing for data localisation in order to strengthen digital sovereignty and digital development.

Paper long abstract:

As China builds an increasing share of the underpinning infrastructure for hosting data in developing countries, it is important to ask how the global expansion of Chinese-built data centres and cloud services is reshaping data inequalities? To answer this question, this paper examines how digital data is collected, processed, and managed in two Huawei-built data centres in Egypt and Algeria, both of which have adopted data governance frameworks pressing for data localisation in order to strengthen digital sovereignty and digital development. In Egypt, I explore Huawei’s contract with the National Research Centre (NRC), the country’s largest research institution and in Algeria, I explore its project with Sonatrach, the state-owned energy firm.

The paper finds that these two North African countries have engaged in superficial data localisation efforts, whereby data in strategic sectors is localised within national borders but is still processed by foreign multinationals. Even though the NRC and Sonatrach took the initial step of localising their data by constructing and running their own data centres, these initiatives were quickly abandoned in favour of more efficient solutions that ultimately outsourced the management and expansion of their respective data centres to Huawei. Control over infrastructure and the data it hosts remains in the hands of the Chinese and non-Chinese tech giant, limiting opportunities for technological learning. While emerging data governance frameworks in Algeria and Egypt are failing to achieve their dual objectives of data sovereignty and economic development, both are using the emerging data system to expand their surveillance capabilities.

Panel P04
Data justice and development [Digital Technologies, Data and Development SG]
  Session 4 Friday 28 June, 2024, -