Open Data: A New Power Struggle Emerges
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Open Data: A New Power Struggle Emerges

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The following content is sponsored by the Hinrich Foundation.

Hinrich Foundation

Why the World Needs Open Data

Over the last 10 years, data has quickly become one of the world’s most abundant resources.

It’s easy to see how, as well. Things we use on a day-to-day basis—phones, TVs, and even home appliances—are often connected to the internet and thus able to collect data. The result is 64 zettabytes (64 trillion gigabytes) of data being created in 2020.

When we are able to share and analyze this data, we can unlock value for both businesses and society. For instance, health data collected from wearable devices can help governments make better decisions during a pandemic. Location data collected from smartphones can enable businesses to reach customers more efficiently. The list goes on and on.

In this infographic from the Hinrich Foundation, we highlight the importance of open data, and why some governments are trying to control the flow of data.

Open Data Comes Under Attack

Open data is data that can be freely shared, used, and built upon without restrictions—all important criteria for facilitating global trade and e-commerce.

Unfortunately, a handful of countries see data as a tool for gaining economic and political power. This leads them to impose data localization measures which hamper the international flow of data, digital products, or internet-enabled services.

The following table lists countries that have at least three of these measures.

CountryNumber of data localization measures
🇨🇳 China29
🇮🇳 India12
🇷🇺 Russia9
🇹🇷 Turkey7
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan6
🇰🇷 South Korea4
🇮🇩 Indonesia4
🇩🇪 Germany4
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia3
🇺🇸 U.S.3
🇩🇰 Denmark3
🇧🇪 Belgium3

Source: ITIF 2021

Data localization regimes can vary in severity and affect a range of industries. China is the leader in this regard, with 29 localization measures targeting various areas of its economy. This includes banking, insurance, transportation, and even genetic information.

Common Rationales for Data Localization

There are two common rationales for why governments try to control the flow of data.

1. Data Privacy and Security

Policymakers often believe that the best way to protect data is to store it within their borders. However, past events show that the security of data does not depend on where it is stored.

Consider the U.S. Office of Personnel Management data breach, which resulted in the personal information of 25 million Americans being stolen. U.S. investigators claim the attack originated in China, and was carried out by agents who managed to gain valid user credentials.

2. Surveillance and Protectionism

Geopolitical rivalries have escalated in recent years, and businesses that generate data often find themselves in the crossfire.

One example is the U.S. blacklisting of Huawei in 2019, which left Huawei phones without access to Google apps like YouTube and Maps. This was a serious blow to the company’s competitiveness, and its sales in Q1 2021 declined 50% from the prior year. Over the same time frame, other Chinese phone makers have experienced double-digit growth.

Another example is China’s crackdown on Didi, the country’s largest ride-hailing company. Didi came under fire for going public on the New York Stock Exchange in June 2021, and was unable to register new users while it was investigated for “national security purposes”.

China’s Cybersecurity Administration is now considering a ban on overseas IPOs for tech companies.

The Future is Digital

5G networks are expected to introduce an unprecedented level of connectedness. This means more data being generated by individuals, businesses, and governments.

And while this data has the potential to unlock solutions for many global issues, policymakers continue to create more barriers. There are now 144 data localization measures worldwide, up from 67 in 2017.

Of course, not all data can be open data. But if designed properly, data governance can enable more inclusive economic growth and maximize the benefits of this modern resource.

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Ocean Economy: The Next Wave of Sustainable Innovation

This graphic explores how the $1.5 trillion ocean economy can help fight against some of the toughest challenges facing the world today.

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Ocean Economy: The Next Wave of Sustainable Innovation

Roughly 21–37% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are attributable to our current food system, which includes conventional agriculture and land use according to the latest IPCC report.

With the global population rising and more mouths to feed, now is the time to reconsider how we can tap into our global resources to build a more sustainable food system.

This infographic from Billy Goat Brands (CSE: GOAT) (“GOAT”) explores how the ocean economy—also referred to as the blue economy—plays a vital role in our fight against climate change and other environmental challenges facing the world today.

What is the Ocean Economy?

The ocean economy is described as the sustainable use of the ocean and its resources for economic development and ocean ecosystem health.

The global economic output of the ocean economy is $1.5 trillion each year. Here is an example of some of the activities and sectors that make up the ocean economy today:

ActivityRelated Sectors
Harvesting of living marine resourcesFisheries
Aquaculture
Harvesting of non-living marine resources 
Marine biology
Mining
Oil & Gas
Transport and trade
Tourism
Maritime transport
Shipping and shipbuilding
Coastal development
Renewable energy
Renewables (wind, wave, tidal energy)
Indirect economic activities
Carbon sequestration
Coastal protection
Waste disposal
Biodiversity

Financing ocean-related economic activities will ensure the future sustainability of this vital resource, and help combat threats that pose a risk to humanity, such as overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction.

However, some experts say that there is insufficient private and public investment in sustainable ocean economy activities.

The Investment Opportunity

Investors have a unique opportunity to drive change through companies innovating in the ocean economy and be part of the solution.

  • The ocean could provide six times more food than it does today.
  • Seafood continues to be the fastest growing sector by 2030 with only 60% of fish available for consumption.
  • The ocean economy provides a smaller carbon footprint compared to conventional agriculture.

The potential for economic growth will only continue to grow, presenting investors and institutions with a chance to add value at this crucial stage of development while making a real and tangible impact.

In fact, investing $1 in key ocean activities can yield at least $5 in global benefits—a number that will continue to rise over the next 30 years according to a World Resources Institute report.

The report also states that investing between $2 trillion and $3.7 trillion globally across four crucial areas could generate between $8.2 trillion and $22.8 trillion in returns by 2050. These four areas are:

  1. Restoring mangrove habitats
  2. Scaling up offshore wind production
  3. Decarbonizing international shipping
  4. Increasing the production of sustainably sourced ocean-based proteins

An Ocean of Possibilities on the Horizon

Plant-based alternatives will play an important role in alleviating the pressure on ocean resources, and technological innovation has been pivotal in creating imitation products for the consumer market.

GOAT provides diversified exposure to expansion-stage companies that contribute to the ocean economy through innovative food technologies, functional foods and plant-based alternatives.

“We believe that plant-based seafood alternatives should be available for everyone, everywhere. That’s why we spent years creating a seamless experience that’s nearly indistinguishable from their animal-based counterparts.”
—Mike Woodruff, CEO Sophie’s Kitchen

Sophie’s Kitchen is one of GOAT’s investee companies and a leading California-based manufacturer and distributor of disruptive plant-based seafood alternatives.

Go to billygoatbrands.com to learn more about investing in the ocean economy today.

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Impact Investing: Building a Better World

While investors often focus solely on returns, impact investing introduces a way to also tackle global environmental and social problems.

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Typically, an investor’s main objective revolves around building wealth and then turning that wealth into an income generator. As a result, financial returns are accepted as the default performance metric.

But what if investing could also address the world’s most pressing social and environmental problems?

More Than Investing

This infographic from BlackRock introduces the concept of impact investing and explains why it can be a force for good.

impact

BlackRock Impact Investing

What Does Positive Impact Look Like?

Impact investing is a sustainable investing approach that combines the intention to generate positive returns with positive, measurable social and environmental outcomes.

To understand what these outcomes actually look like, here are some highlights from the companies that the BlackRock Impact Team invests in.

  • 102,000 GWh of renewable energy generated
  • 11 million metric tons of food waste mitigated
  • 114 million individuals empowered with access to financial services
  • 99 million people given access to clean drinking water
  • 600,000 families given access to affordable housing
  • 1.8 billion patients given access to affordable healthcare

These outcomes were generated in 2020, and help to make our world a better place.

The Three Pillars of Additionality

For impact investing to be an effective strategy, investors must be able to accurately measure the positive outcomes their capital is helping to create. A company may claim to be aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but its actions may not be making a real world difference.

“Alignment to the SDGs is not enough to qualify as impact; we require that companies advance the SDGs by providing a solution that is additional, thereby creating genuine impact.”
-Quyen Tran, Director of Impact Investing at BlackRock

Below is an overview of the three pillars of additionality that BlackRock uses to measure impact. In this context, additionality means an outcome would not have occurred without the company’s contribution.

1. Additionality From the Investee (the company)

A company provides additionality if its products and services address a need that is unlikely to be fulfilled by others. The primary sources of company additionality are:

  • The application of leading technologies
  • The deployment of innovative business models
  • The delivery of products and services to underserved populations

Helping underserved populations is a powerful way to create impact. In 2017, for example, it was estimated that 1.7 billion adults did not have a bank account.

2. Additionality From the Investor

Investors can also provide additionality by empowering businesses to create positive impact. This can be done through five mechanisms:

  • Invest with a long-term ownership mindset
  • Engage with companies to help enhance their impact outcomes
  • Invest capital when an impact company needs to raise more capital
  • Bring much-needed visibility to undervalued impact companies
  • Create a better marketplace for impact companies looking to go public

The effects of these mechanisms are already being seen worldwide, especially as awareness of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors rises. According to a 2020 report by KPMG, 80% of companies now publish sustainability reports.

3. Additionality From the Asset Class

Even with the help of private investments, the world faces a multi-trillion-dollar shortfall in its quest to meet the UN SDGs by 2030. Public equities have the ability to shrink this gap by moving capital towards enterprises that are solving the world’s greatest challenges.

MarketValue
Private market impact investing$0.5T
Private markets$5.3T
Public equities$93.0T

Source: McKinsey & Co (2019), BlackRock (2020)

At $93 trillion in total value, public equities are roughly 20 times larger than private markets.

Building a Better World

Solving today’s greatest challenges often requires innovative solutions. Consider the fact that many regions suffer from a lack of doctors.

RegionDensity of Physicians
Europe1 for every 293 people
Americas1 for every 417 people
Southeast Asia1 for every 1,239 people
Africa1 for every 3,324 people

Source: World Health Organization (2021)

An impact investing strategy will seek out companies whose products or services can help to alleviate this shortage. For example, the BlackRock Impact Team has identified a medical software company whose platform lowers administrative costs and increases productivity.

Cybersecurity is another area where investors can help create positive change—according to McAfee, cybercrime has become a $1 trillion drag on the global economy.

This risk disproportionately affects small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) because they have limited resources to protect themselves. Cybersecurity companies that specialize in servicing SMEs can help protect this important part of the economy.

The Time is Now

Impact investing is not limited to a single theme. Around the world, various social and environmental issues are capturing the attention of governments and society. Ultimately, what’s needed are innovative solutions.

“If your savings can earn a strong return invested in companies that are doing good for the world, why would you invest any other way?”
—Eric Rice, Head of Active Equities Impact Investing at BlackRock

By directing capital to the right companies, investors have the potential to generate financial return while building a better world.

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