Risks associated with data governance

The dominant risk identified in relation to data governance is that of cyber security attack (57 per cent). Interestingly, the second most perceived risk relates to human involvement and a lack of staff skill and knowledge (44 per cent). This is reassuring as organisations appreciate that risks relate to both external and internal factors and encompass both the technical and human aspects. 

The diversity of identified risk is also reassuring (lack of data life-cycle management, siloed data holdings, third party risks etc), as it implies that future strategies to combat risks could be nuanced and holistic.

Figure 6

However, given widespread familiarity with the centrality of data to society, it is surprising to see 44 per cent believe that this lack of action is due to their organisation underestimating the ‘value’ of data. This is also somewhat inconsistent as to the above results in relation to value. Further interrogation of the industry sectors responding to these questions may explain this divergence.

Expected 2030 risks

The responses in relation to potential future 2030 risks reflect an understanding of the capacity of institutional and/or individual usage of AI to lead to the misuse of data on a large scale. While this figure is only 10 per cent for 2023, it balloons to 43 per cent in 2030. This is of concern, as it suggests a lack of appreciation of how AI usage can presently lead to data misfeasance. This is not a future problem, it is a real and present danger, and organisations need urgent education on the nature and extent of the current threat presented by AI usage. The continuing prevalence of cyber security (57% in 2023 and 62% in 2030) reveals that organisations clearly understand that this is a continuing long-term threat to be addressed.

Rating of organisation’s management and protection of data

A majority of 57 per cent feel their organisation’s management and protection of data is ‘average’. 

How to address data governance risks

Training and financial investment were overwhelmingly perceived as the way to address data governance risks. A majority of 86 per cent cited some form of financial investment, with a further 89 per cent citing training. Reassuringly, an overwhelming 88 per cent responded that their organisation has ‘plans in place’ to improve data management and protection.

Figure 7

Perceived benefits of data governance

The results reveal a limited understanding of the benefits of data governance. When it comes to benefits for the individuals and communities whose data an organisation holds, privacy and increased security are perceived as the leading benefits. Significantly, other issues such as protecting the financial interests of individuals by preventing the unauthorised monetisation of their data are not noted. Similarly, supporting individual control and autonomy, as well as their psychological well-being by responsibly and safety dealing with their data is not noted.

As accountability, transparency, fairness, contestability, reliability and human well-being are among the principles articulated in the Australian Government’s AI Ethics Framework, it is likely that such values will flow onto broader data governance in the future. This is likely to broaden organisations’ understanding of the benefits of appropriate data governance.

When it comes to benefits for the organisation itself, the understanding is more developed, with managing reputational risk, building customer trust, supporting better decision-making and driving change being amongst the many identified benefits.

Figure 8

For any assistance with addressing the data governance needs of your organisation, do not hesitate to contact your local PKF audit and data governance expert.

Related insights

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