Estimated reading time 3 min

Building the human-driven data economy

Sitra is helping to develop a new data economy, including a method of data exchange and guidelines for the ethical use of data.


Data is the new renewable energy, if it is free from silos. Yet while energy has regulated uses and markets, data is still in the Wild West stage. Sitra’s IHAN project aims to change this by developing a fair and functioning data economy. The goals are to create a method to exchange data as well as guidelines for how it is used.

“If you go to a store and see a Fair Trade label on a product you know it meets certain standards,” says Jaana Sinipuro, the project director for IHAN – human-driven data economy at Sitra. “We could use the same idea and label companies who use data responsibly.”

Need for new solutions

Europe is at the forefront of the data economy, thanks in part to GDPR, but new rules, technical solutions and operating models are necessary.

“We call it the human-driven data economy because the individual should have better possibilities to control and use his data,” Sinipuro says.

Additionally, the data market is highly fragmented. Companies and organisations jealously control the data they collect because it is an asset. The new model can encourage the ethical sharing of data to create new services and business opportunities.

“A company shouldn’t have to consult a lawyer every time they want to share data,” she explains. “If there is a standard with clear guidelines, companies can share data and find emerging business arenas while citizens have a transparent view of the process.”

IHAN – Human-driven data economy, was launched in the spring of 2018. It is still in its early stages, but already authorities have seen the value of the idea.

“A European standardisation organisation has recently agreed with our proposal to start working on IHAN’s technical components,” Sinipuro says.

Partners wanted

Sitra is actively searching for partners and have launched a funding program for pilot projects. The goals are to develop new models of data exchange and the technical solutions to support them.

“One technical pilot was regarding data from the elderly exchanged to new service providers,” Sinipuro says. “Another was a blockchain-based pilot regarding agricultural data streams. We are open to all innovative projects.”

Within a year Sitra hopes to have convinced the Finnish government that the project should be taken nationwide.

“We hope that in several years this will become a European-wide project,” Sinipuro says. “Europe can remain the forerunner in the human-driven economy. Fair data means fair business.”

The original article by David J. Cord was published in Business Class magazine (October 2018 – January 2019).

What's this about?