Becoming Data-Driven Across International Borders: Key Translation Considerations

May 28, 2021

Contributed Commentary by Ofer Tirosh

May 28, 2021 | Big data is often used by businesses to analyze and expand into foreign markets, but there are added complexities when it comes to processing data that crosses international borders. Within the life sciences field, data-driven models can help with clinical trials and observations. The greater the geographic spread of the data being gathered, the more potential uses clinicians will have for it. However, gathering data in multiple languages layers complexity onto any research.

We can see this in action with the ECRAN project, European Communication on Research Awareness Need, which exists to inform the general population about independent, multinational, clinical trials in Europe. Communication materials and the searchable resource inventory are available in the 23 official languages of the European Community. Just as this multilingual approach is required to share information about clinical trials, so too is it needed in order to conduct them.

Some of the complexities around becoming data-driven across international borders are exacerbated by language barriers, while others aren’t. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the key issues with becoming data-driven across international borders and consider where translation services can help (and where they can’t).

Work Translation Services into Your Big Data Strategy

A solid data strategy can do much to drive the direction of your business. However, once that strategy starts incorporating the use of data from different countries, it can begin to feel overwhelming trying to work out how to comply with various requirements and overcome potential issues. Some of the thornier problems to address include compliance with differing standards and data privacy and security concerns.

This can be even harder when the data is in multiple languages. This is where the right team of expert and experienced linguists from reliable translation services really comes into its own. Juggling data formats and sources as well as foreign languages is a big ask. However, having the backing of a solid team, who are used to working with big data from a technical perspective, can quickly bring order to the task.

While a team of external linguists won’t be able to keep up with a deluge of one million or more new transaction records arriving every day, they can certainly support businesses to put the right automated processes in place to do so. The translation of key terms can aid in developing the right infrastructure to address any language issues.

The Problems With Compliance

If you’ve shaped your entire data strategy around one country’s requirements, expanding overseas can throw a real spanner in the works. Different countries have different privacy regulations in place. None of these are impossible to comply with at all, but when you’ve built your entire infrastructure to meet one set of standards, it can be time-consuming to adapt that to meeting differing standards—while also continuing to comply with the original ones.

In such cases, it’s possible to go down the route of conditional data flows, with authorization sought from regulators on processing the data internationally. However, all of this carries with it a cost in both time and effort.

Data Privacy and Security Concerns

The other key concern relates to data privacy and security. You may end up working with data that’s been processed in locations with less robust privacy standards. How, then, can you apply your own country’s standards to that incoming data when it might already have been subject to anything from surveillance by a foreign government to hacking?

This may mean introducing additional safeguards, to ensure that all data that you process—no   matter where you do it—is subject to the same rigorous standards. Again, this means an investment of both time and money.

How Can Translation Help?

Even the best translation services won’t help you to resolve the fact that your target country’s data processing regulations differ from those of your homeland. However, having a team of technically minded linguists on hand, who can help handle discussions with regulators, can at least speed up the pace at which conversations around how to address the issues take place. They can also ensure that there are no misunderstandings as a result of language barriers, making for a slicker and more efficient solution implementation process.

The need for such support will continue to grow as the world becomes ever more interconnected. We have a truly massive amount of data at our disposal now. So much so that an AI model is frequently used to collate it all. Almost a decade ago, by 2013, 90% of the world’s data had been generated during the two years before.

And the staggering statistics don’t stop there. In 2020, each person generated 1.7 megabytes of data in a single second. As such, it has never been more important for those data points to be organized, clear and part of an appropriate infrastructure for cross-border processing.

Ultimately, you need to gather and access data in a way that makes sense in any language if you are going to use it to grow your business successfully across international borders. You’ll need to be in a strong position to manage national restrictions relating to data harvesting and processing if you want to get ahead of the competition. Using technical linguists to support your understanding of the nuances of those restrictions can make a big difference to how fast you are able to progress your plans to become data-driven across international borders.

Ofer Tirosh is the CEO of Tomedes, a global translation services that spans a range of disciplines, and is powered by a combination of technological and human solutions. He can be reached at