A road map for a fair data economy offers a new foundation for Europe’s sustainable growth

The Lisbon Council and Sitra have published a new policy brief, A Roadmap for a Fair Data Economy. The policy brief outlines a vision for how Europe can put individuals in control of their own data and how the continent can become home to exciting new business models in finance, health, mobility, energy and other areas.

The policy brief lays out a road map to develop working business ecosystems that deliver on the promise of a fair data economy:

  • Make current regulations work
    Focus on adopting existing regulation. Governments in collaboration with consumer groups and companies need to put Europe’s new rules for the data economy into practice by promoting and ensuring data portability to fulfil the potential for data reuse and individual control.
  • Lead by example
    Voluntary compliance of governments with the GDPR and setting an example of how governments treat data and help create demand for technology, standards and services.
  • Build ecosystems and provide infrastructure
    Governments can accelerate the creation of new services and ecosystems, particularly in sectors with public involvement and regulation. Governments should work together with large corporations to support service creation and promote standards and interoperability.
  • Promote the fair data economy in policy agendas
    As with any broad policy shift, we need a concerted effort to make people aware of their new data rights and companies aware of the opportunities these offer.

The European Union is focusing strongly on ethics and the ethical use of Artificial Intelligence, underpinned by strong legal protections for personal data, security and competition. This is a worthwhile goal, but start-ups and big companies alike have voiced concerns that the new EU rules restrict the use of data for developing new businesses while imposing significant compliance costs.

The paper claims there is no need to compromise between data use and privacy. Actually the opportunities for using data are better in the fair data economy than in the prevailing model. Data sharing based on consent and portability is the key. Fairness implies that benefits accrue for all participants in the exchange and use of data – individual data subjects, data producers and companies that consume data to offer new services.

The opportunities for using data are better in the fair data economy than in the prevailing model.

“We are still in the early days of the data economy,” says Luukas K. Ilves, Deputy Director and Senior Fellow at the Lisbon Council. “The changes we have seen so far are a small foretaste of what is to come. The next generation of personalised services will need more personal data, not less. Whoever can master the equation of creating trust and broad participation while fostering personalised service innovations will win the next round of disruption.”

This policy brief takes inspiration from what is happening in Finland, which has led the way with its development of the MyData model.

“Leading Finnish businesses and start-ups in different sectors have already started to develop MyData-based services and need underlying infrastructure and interoperability principles,” says Antti Kivelä, Director at Sitra. “Research institutes, government agencies and other organisations are supporting the development.”

For sustainable ecosystems to be born, public-private partnerships are needed. A new act on the secondary use of health and social data is an example of enabling legislation. It gives an option to build new ecosystems around the safe and transparent use of social welfare and healthcare data in Finland by opening up data for research, innovation and management. It also ensures that data is used safely, thus maintaining people’s trust. Combining personal data, MyData, with non-personal data opens up unforeseen opportunities for service development.

Sitra is at the heart of these developments with its IHAN project, focusing on standardisation efforts while supporting a wide range of pilots. But Sitra’s project is far from unique; in fact, many leading companies and organisations across Europe are working on personal data-sharing initiatives. A second generation of Personal Information Managers are the intermediaries that can orchestrate complex ecosystems where data is widely reused between sectors while individuals maintain oversight and control.

EU legislation already underpins this vision. Article 20 of the GDPR creates a right to data portability and reinforces other personal data rights needed to give individuals confidence in data sharing. Sectoral rules in banking and other areas show regulators becoming increasingly aware of the role data portability can play in fostering innovation.

This summer, a new European Parliament will begin its work, as Finland takes over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The purpose of this policy brief is to provide guidelines for The future of Europe. We will hold the first discussions on this paper in Helsinki (and online) on 8 May, followed by further meetings in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe.

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