White paper: Data sovereignty and soft infrastructures are key enablers for the next phase of the European data economy

Digital Europe

In order to achieve the goals of the European data strategy it is necessary to make data sovereignty a design principle and develop a soft infrastructure for data sharing, according to a new white paper jointly written by Sitra and INNOPAY. The timing of the publication coincides with the European Data Summit, which is taking place this week from 30 September to 2 October.

INNOPAY and Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra have published a white paper titled ‘Data sovereignty and soft infrastructures are key enablers for the next phase of the European data economy’. As underlined by the new European data strategy, the European Commission wants to make Europe fit for the digital age and unleash the full benefits of better data usage for everyone. The white paper makes recommendations for how this can be achieved in practice.

Data is essential for the creation of new business models for data-driven innovations and services. However, according to Sitra and INNOPAY, there are two things standing in the way of access to sufficient data. One is a growing unwillingness to share data because of privacy and security concerns. The other is the inability to share data because of a lack of interoperability – the ability of different systems to work in conjunction with each other and for devices, applications or products to connect and communicate in a co-ordinated way, without extra effort from the user.

In order to make a European single market for data a reality, whilst staying true to European values, the paper suggests making data sovereignty a design principle, developing a soft infrastructure for data sharing and focusing on adoption of this infrastructure.

“The task now is to create a soft infrastructure for data sharing based on sound consent, data transfer and trust mechanisms,” says Mariane ter Veen from INNOPAY. “The infrastructure must work for every person, business and government in the EU, and in terms of standardisation must go beyond regulation and governance alone. We have today reached a similarly pivotal point in history as in the early days of the internet, just before standards such as TCP and IP (Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol) were agreed.”

The European Commission (EC) can play a key role by establishing an EU-wide soft infrastructure or trust framework for cross-sectoral data governance. This should be built around easy-to-grasp and actionable guidelines encompassing all relevant aspects: business, legal, ethical and technical.

“The quickest and most effective regulatory intervention for the EC is to make data sovereignty mandatory for businesses and the public sector over the coming decade,” says Jaana Sinipuro from Sitra. “The aim should be to nudge businesses and governments into giving their users, customers and people tools to manage, share and benefit from using their data. This will eventually lead to new innovative services and economic growth.”

There are already several ongoing European initiatives or projects that are defining soft infrastructures. For example, the architectural models of the International Data Spaces Association, iSHARE and IHAN have a lot in common and could easily augment each other.

The white paper emphasises how this approach will accelerate the execution of the data strategy, the creation of common European data spaces and build a solid and sustainable foundation for the next phase of the European data economy.

Along with several other partners, Sitra and INNOPAY will be organising a webinar debate on ‘DataSovereignty Now: unleashing the benefits of data in line with European values’ on 15 October, featuring two keynote speakers and an expert panel discussion. Policy makers, regulators and other senior public officers in the Netherlands, Germany and the rest of Europe are encouraged to join in the discussion. Click here for more details and to register.

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