By 2025, one of the world’s most advanced super-speed subsea internet cables will be completed. It will propel digital trade for decades into the future. Construction started in February 2023. SubCom LLC is laying a US$600-million cable on the sea floor. The cable will transfer data from Asia to Europe, via Africa and the Middle East along 19,200km of fibre. Known as South East Asia–Middle East–Western Europe 6, or SeaMeWe-6, it will connect twelve countries from Singapore to France, crossing three seas and the Indian Ocean. It is a string of a subsea Belt and Road.

Digital trade turns on market intelligence, simplified customs procedures, financing for SMEs, e-residency, and digital talent to drive competitiveness. It involves moving Open Data across borders. Digital trade is experiencing a proliferation of platforms. Some developers have built Apps that increase the complexity of interrelations among platforms and complementary offerings.

Some Apps are developed to sit on top of others. And more are nested inside of others. Third parties build bridges that interconnect platforms. The result is an increasingly complex constellation of platforms, on different levels of the technological architecture that is budding a new “ecology of platforms”. This ecology allows the liquid movement of data across global value chains.

A citizen anywhere will be able to track a package anytime, anywhere along any route, using the free flow of data along cables like the EllaLink from Portugal to Brazil and the SeaMeWe-6. Digital Trade is a broad idea. It exceeds the sale of merchandise and the supply of online services. It raises a spectre of new trade barriers that are unlike the old subsidies, tariffs, and quotas.

The new trade barriers are purely digital. Data localization barriers require data storage in a particular jurisdiction. This pattern has already been moderately disrupted by data embassies, data lakes, data cooperatives, and digital lessons from the war in Ukraine. Technology-grounded digital trade barriers in some jurisdictions place onerous security standards to disclose encryption algorithms or related proprietary source code.

Barriers to internet services include forlorn regulatory regimes that are unable to meet the requirements of the moment, and are incongruent with new business models for competitiveness. Other digital trade barriers include issues enfolding electronic authentication, e-signatures, domain names, digital merchandise including digital fashion, e­­-payments, web filtering and blocking, restrictions on cloud computing, and prohibitions on offering consumers virtual private network connections to reach overseas data centres.

Among the most recent digital devices that are being purchased for sustainable reasons is the EV. However, the trend of low-mileage zero-emissions vehicles being written off by insurance companies after a collision is escalating. Some makers of EVs design battery packs “structurally” as part of the car’s body. This design decision has allowed the makers to cut production costs but risks pushing those costs back to insurance companies.

It is foreseeable that EV insurance premiums will grow unless manufacturers make it easier to access battery data for vehicles that are slightly damaged. Ford has streamlined its battery repair procedures and has made it simple to replace the battery pack tray. The new Ultium batteries designed by General Motors allow module-level repairs. Access to battery data by third parties is allowed by GM. The Nissan Motor Co, allows individual modules in its EVs to be replaced and dealerships are trained to use “new tools” to repair EV batteries.

Renault allows repairs to battery packs at labelled “battery centres”. Other makers of EVs do not repair batteries after accidents where the airbag is deployed during a collision and are strong advocates of data privacy laws. Battery packs for electric vehicles (EVs) can cost as much as fifty per cent of an EV’s price tag. This makes the car extravagant to replace.

The assessment and repair of even slightly damaged battery packs for EVs is at best a fresh frontier. In some instances, damaged battery packs are also being stored in locations that are not certified to manage this category of waste. This opens a gap in what is supposed to be a circular economy.

Some manufacturers of EVs uphold that the battery packs are repairable. However, few are willing to share battery data. Insurers, garages, fleets, and leasing companies are in a broil over the data generated by the lucrative connected car business. Advanced battery diagnostics and prognostics allow EV owners to have battery data to accurately predict battery state of health (SOH), state of safety (SOS), cycle life, remaining useful life (RUL), and notifications of cells with a high risk of failure. EVs are key in the move to an intelligent, energy-efficient, low-carbon future.

Once connected to a grid an EV may be permitted to charge or discharge electricity to the network as demand requires. Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) services, by charging or discharging as demand requires, or by discharging to allow more EVs to charge at periods of high demand, can assist in managing network congestion. But this raises issues pertaining to generator activities and supply licence requirements. EVs are not classical merchandise. Battery data is locked inside the jurisprudence of privacy laws, and private cabin-generated data remains nested inside the new platform architecture of digital trade.