Against data individualism why a pandemic accord needs to commit to data solidarity


An accord to increase global pandemic preparedness is currently negotiated at the World Health Organisation (WHO). One aspect is conspicuously missing from the draft version: data governance. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, the availability of good quality data, and prudent ways of using this data while preventing other forms of data use that is harmful to people and communities, is literally a matter of life and death. It is of utmost importance for the pandemic accord to include a data governance strategy. We argue that data solidarity provides a suitable foundation for such a data governance strategy in the context of pandemics. It includes instruments to facilitate data use in cases where data use is likely to create benefits for many people without entailing high risks for individuals or communities. Data solidarity also calls to refrain from data use in cases where it would pose unacceptable risks. Finally, data solidarity helps to mitigate harm where it occurs. In sum, data solidarity helps to enhance the benefits from digital practices in health crises without playing out collective interests against the rights and needs of individuals.