miércoles, 27 de noviembre de 2019

Building an inclusive European Data Economy

On June 2019, the European Council agreed on "A new strategic agenda 2019-2024", which provides a political framework for the work of the European Union in the next legislative period. This key policy document recognises on one hand that Europe needs to address the digital revolution to build the European model for the future. On the other hand, within the digital dimension of the European model the development of a European Data Space is identified as critical as the deployment of connectivity and infrastructure. This is far from a exaggeration, the size of the EU data economy was estimated to be more than €285 billion in 2015, representing over 1.94% of the EU GDP.  And since then it has only growth in importance.

Although there is a well-deserved technological inferiority complex in Europe regarding US and China, the basis to build on the European Data Space is already on place. The European Union regulatory framework defines the rules for the free movement of personal and non-personal data within Europe, impose on the public sector the obligation to open and share its data, in particular high-value data sets, and the interoperability of the indispensable geospàtial data is guaranteed since more than a decade. Furthermore, sectoral regulations on financial sector and car industry pave the way to a new generation of rules for enhancing data access as the key for a competitive and thriving economy. The value of the mentioned framework is showed in its inspiring role of recent G20 and OECD works.

Nevertheless, Europe is still far from reap the full benefits from the above legal framework and the data generated by its manufacturing and service sectors. To begin with, the access to the data economy is not as inclusive as it should be in order to take on board all the brilliant ideas and innovations. Small and Medium Enterprises neither have the skills nor the infrastructure to jump on the data economy and the funding and administrative framework for European start ups needs improvement to allow them to take advantage of the Digital Single Market. The cornerstone for European digital sovereignty is breeding a pool of EU Digital Champions. Some of them may come from current European big companies, but the core requires long term work, establishing now the right conditions for current SMEs and start ups.

Although it is an obvious precondition, it should be highlighted that there will not be data economy without data. Unfortunately, in spite of the sectoral advances already mention in the financial sector and car industry, data is still behind the doors of their producers and it is not shared as much as possible. Once more, the path of self-regulation looks exhausted without paying enough benefits. Among possible regulations for unleashing the full potential of European data may be establishing opendata obligations on public interest data whether it is held in public or private hands , providing governments with tools to demand data from private companies for the implementation of public policies and transparency statements from private companies on the data they own and how to access to it.

Last but not least, the so-called European values and principles should underpinned of the European Data Space.  The tool of the public statement from private companies maybe useful also for this purpose. Beyond the declaration of which data is compiled and generated, the specification of the algorithms used for this purpose within the limits of commercial secret maybe part also of these public statements.

Europe is less far than we may think of overcoming US and China as a data economy power. Some minor work should be done on bolstering its first-class data regulation, European principles should be embedded on the European Data Space and more efforts but not exhausting are needed to develop the competition and funding rules needed for injecting inclusiveness on data economy.

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