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Data replaces oil as significant resource; reshapes geopolitics

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Shehab Al Makahleh

The diminuendos behind the international order are in a process of mutability with data enabling; restraining countries and empowering others to be globally dominant. At present, the mounting economic and political prominence of information is affecting countries’ policies and primacies and how they brandish supremacy, vie and concoct for conflict in the coming few years. Since geopolitics is an intricate system, it is defined as interaction between land and power; thus, if there is no power there is no geopolitics, and if there is no land there is no geopolitics. At present, geopolitics depends on one more pillar: data and information.

Before delving into data and geopolitics, one should distinguish three types of information: free (personal about individuals which are given freely online), commercial (intellectual property) and strategic (countries’ secrets and clandestine information which are deemed of due importance in terms of national security). The most important of which is the strategic information, where information about the whole people and state’s entities and activities are at the disposal of others, affecting personal lives of political and military leaders, as they will be prone to espionage and sabotage.

Nowadays, not only super powers, but also developing nations are trying to acquire information about foreign citizens and firms for strategic considerations. Therefore, information has become the world’s most far-reaching and queried geopolitical resource, with many data and information experts asserting that data is the new power, not oil and gas. Thus, countries with access to data have a competitive edge over those which do not. The significance stems from the fact that data-driven innovation reshapes ties between states and helps rewrite new terms of involvement in world affairs by redefining national interests and strategic primacies.

Since 1945, the US has ruled the world because of information technologies. Until recently, America seemed unassailable in terms of technologies, chiefly information technology, starting from the Internet to free economy. This has been challenged by other countries recently, such as China and Germany. Any country that has the upper hand in the field of information technology will have a bigger say in the world’s economy and politics because the world market is gearing towards individual national strategies that help secure each state’s privacy and policy.

Information is more principal to world activities today than before because of the new advances in technologies. Since information power has four facades: to affect the political and economic environment of other performers, to effect economic progression and affluence, to facilitate a policy-making advantage over contestants and to communicate speedily and firmly. Because propaganda is very old in history and was used as a war tactic, the Internet, in addition to social media platforms, has been used to penetrate users’ computers and phones via applications to revolutionise means to bring about the necessary influence.

Data and information are currently playing a pivotal role in enhancing development and progress in all countries, including developing states. In 2017, the Economist published an article, arguing that data has replaced oil as the world’s most valuable resource. This justifies why the US, China, Russia and other super powers compete to recapture data and information that turns them into data mongers to control the world.  Once any country controls the data, it would be easy to target individuals and prospected consumers and clients.

Accordingly, each country should have its own national information strategy, and governments should work on information geopolitics tailored for economic, social, security and investment prospects because the geopolitics of information has shifted from the centre of who will shape the world’s politics and economy to how raw data and information will reshape the world’s geopolitics and economy through communication channels, the Internet and social media applications.

To sum up, the impact of geopolitics on business success or failure has turned out to be a key area of dispute in the era of dissemination of fake news. Recent studies revealed that more than 85 per cent of top executives believe that geopolitical instability will have a negative impact on their businesses and corporate activities, and that access to true information will be regarded as a rare source amidst streams of fake news and propaganda that are channelled to convey certain messages.

Needless to say, social media platforms and applications, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, are drastically stuffed with lots of materials about various topics that simply connect people together superficially. Such platforms have created cultural, political and social differences by introducing new digital exchanges that can construct or destruct any community because any future war will not be fought by physical armies, but rather by specialists and experts using technologies, cyber, data and information to make or break any corporate or country.

The writer is a consultant, senior political and media adviser and the executive director of Geostrategic Media Centre-USA. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times