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Making it easier to monitor the development of the data economy – we’ve put together a tool to track indicators

The new reporting tool gathers data on key indicators and information concerning data economy development in Finland. The tool is intended as a knowledge base for those interested in the data economy and to support decision-making by business and government experts, developers and policy-makers.


Taru Rastas

Senior Lead, Competitiveness through data


Are organisations in Finland already using advanced data technologies such as AI?  How are companies using data to improve processes or to reform and automate services and work? How does data affect business performance? And how much  research, development and innovation (RDI) investment is being made in Finland to grow the data economy and how much EU funding is being used?

Answers to these and many other questions can be found in the Data Economy Monitoring Tool (currently available in Finnish) developed by Sitra. The monitoring tool makes it easier to understand and build situation awareness of the development of data economy. It was developed by Sitra as part of the work on the national Roadmap for a Fair Data Economy.

Get familiar with the Data Economy Monitoring Tool here! (Available in Finnish)

For the first time, we have a tool that brings together key indicators and qualitative information on the development of the data economy in Finland based on public data sources. The tool, in Power BI format, provides information from key areas of data economy development: building human-centric services, transforming business using data, skills, infrastructures and ecosystems, investments and data policy and EU-level regulation.

The tool is intended as a knowledge base for those interested in the data economy, to support decision-making by business and government experts, developers and policy-makers. The report, its graphs and raw data can be freely used, downloaded and developed further. 

Because the data economy is a new and evolving phenomenon, information is not yet available on all questions related to its development. Thus, the monitoring tool also acts as a co-operative platform to build the knowledge base, measurement and indicators needed for the data economy with various user needs.

Which data economy trends should you pay attention to right now? We have put together the main highlights and will provide further analysis along the way as new information arises that modifies also content of the monitoring tool.

Big picture: growth is rapid in Finland but data commercialisation is in its infancy 

The value of the EU’s data economy is expected to grow to over EUR 600 billion, of which Finland’s share would be roughly EUR 9 billion. In Finland, the data economy grew by nearly 13% in 2021, which is faster than the EU average. Forecasts on the value of EU data economy in the coming years vary between EUR 600 and EUR 800 billion, depending on the source and what is included, and the calculation and measurement methods.

In the current decade, the commercialisation of data in the EU is estimated to have grown by up to 30% annually. In contrast, Finland’s growth rate of almost half this raises concerns about our ability to add value using data through services, products or market exchanges. This development can also be assessed in terms of the number of marketplaces for data producers and users.

The vast majority of Finnish companies say they already use data to streamline and automate processes, develop services and sales, or introduce new ways of doing work. Companies that use data in their business operations report a 4% growth in productivity and a 6% increase in profitability, meaning that the use of data increases competitiveness.

In Finland, the data economy grew by nearly 13% in 2021, which is faster than the EU average.

The economic value of data can also be reflected indirectly in improved service quality, customer satisfaction and supply chain efficiency.

Data solutions enable the transition towards a digital green economy, where value is created in a resource-wise manner. Data can also be used to verify the impact of adopted solutions, which makes it easier, for instance, to target measures towards more energy efficient solutions. The economic, social and environmental value of using data is only beginning to be measured.

Finland successful in securing EU funding 

Investment in the data economy is part of research and development expenditure. The ICT sector accounts for a quarter of Finland’s RDI spending of nearly EUR 8 billion. To assess the prerequisites for growth, it is necessary to examine the available funding instruments and support services, in addition to the volume of investment. One specific challenge is matching EU funding with national investment.

For example, Finland has repatriated from the EU’s EUR 95 billion Horizon Europe funding 1.5 times that of its national contribution. The Digital Europe Programme is a key instrument for boosting Europe’s data development. The EU intends to allocate between EUR 4 and EUR 6 billion in development funds for data infrastructure upscaling, especially data space Data space A set of mutually agreed principles and rules for sharing and exchanging data within or between different sectors. Open term page Data space development.

Business Finland maintains a national EU Funding Advisory Service and provides information on grants, loans, guarantees and public procurement. Collecting information on funding opportunities and developing advisory services can facilitate access for Finnish data innovations to EU-level development activities and markets. 

Data collaboration between organisations is improving 

Data-driven infrastructures, development environments and ecosystems enable the flow of and access  to data between  organisations. In this way, the value created from data multiplies as beneficial data re-use and collaboration increase. It is estimated that only half of data collected by organisations is put to use.

Finnish companies are already using digital solutions to exploit data with relative ease. Over 80% of companies report using cloud services and 40% use the internet of things (IoT) solutions, for example automated data transfer systems for remote machine control. 

The monitoring tool can also assess data availability, for example by observing the growth of the number of openly available datasets. The site currently lists a total of 86 interfaces available for 761 open datasets from public data producers.

Data spaces and data ecosystems are now growing rapidly. Ecosystemisation challenges not only business models but also the measurement of economic performance.

Data collaboration between organisations is only just emerging. To support this, structures are needed that ensure the interoperability and exchange of various data sources. It is therefore necessary to monitor the progress of legal, technical and operational solutions and developments that support data collaboration, such as the provision of metadata and contractual models. 

For example, data spaces and data ecosystems Data ecosystem Several data networks can form a data ecosystem, “a network of networks”, in which the members collaborate with each other to share and use data, as well as to boost innovation and new businesses. Open term page Data ecosystem are now in an early but rapid growth phase, but information about them is still limited and scattered. Ecosystemisation challenges not only business models but also the measurement of economic performance. Value is created in interconnections of industries and as-a-service solutions that transcend sectoral boundaries of traditional value chains.

In the coming months, Sitra will carry out a business survey on the maturity of data ecosystems. The aim is to collect data on the networks in which companies operate and the value they derive from collaboration. 

High demand and competition for data experts

Our growth is impeded by a shortage of data experts. Software and IT companies alone would immediately hire a total of 15,000 people to add to the 62,000 professionals already working in the industry. There are 33,000 students in the ICT sctor, with a total of 4,000 graduating and entering the job market annually. 

Companies in other sectors and the public sector also compete for talent. Data skills are needed in a wide range of occupations and educational backgrounds, so the quantity and quality of skilled professionals needs to be monitored as part of improving the level of education and the development of occupational requirements. 

Training will be developed to meet today’s needs for data literacy in a multidisciplinary way across different levels of education and continuing professional development. The monitoring tool will gather examples of educational pathways and programmes compiled and supplemented with qualitative data in addition to the quantitative monitoring of the supply and demand of data experts.

Large datasets help companies, but few use AI

The majority of Finnish companies say they use data in their business, including 53% of SMEs. Two-thirds of companies use big data to support marketing, customer service or product development. This suggests that companies are able to analyse large datasets using data technologies and create business with data, for example in the form of personalised customer service. 

New participants are emerging in the data economy, such as data brokers, data operators and data technology providers. They are introducing new services and products to the market. The EU Data Governance Act will further define actors’ roles in the data economy, which makes it important for us to be able to monitor also the impact that these new activities have on the data economy in the future.

Tools that apply AI have seen a recent surge in growth. Survey results late this year could see a big change in the use of artificial intelligence.

AI is reported to be used by 12% of Finnish companies. Reasons cited for the low level of use of the technology include lack of skills, and problems with software and systems compatibility and with the availability and quality of data. Tools that apply AI have seen a recent surge in growth and it is quite possible that there will be a significant jump in the use of AI in survey results towards the end of this year. Data on developments and the barriers to progress are important as they provide direct tips for improvements that companies can take to modernise their business using data and analytics in comparison to their industry peers.

Investing in the fair use of data in services pays off

How data serves people as customers and citizens lies at the heart of the fair data economy. The quality of data-driven services can be monitored through the principles of the fair data economy. Fairness in the data economy is reflected in how well data rights are realised in digital services as new regulations are put into practice. 

The data economy surveys of individuals and businesses that Sitra carried out in 2021 show that Finns are most concerned about the leakage of their personal data. More than half of respondents feel that data protection was left too much to the individual. Similarly, slightly less than half of companies had engaged in measures to increase trust. Transparency measures have an impact, as a majority of respondents to the citizen survey (83%) feel that measures, such as presenting terms and conditions of data use in an understandable way, would increase their trust in a company.

Finns are most concerned about the leakage of their personal data. More than half of respondents feel that data protection was left too much to the individual.

Increasing data skills in companies would also improve human-centric service development. Less than half of the respondents to the business survey consider themselves capable of acting in the data economy. About a third of companies have a data strategy to guide the fair use and sharing of data.

Still a long way to go to a functioning internal data market

Data economy regulation in the EU is now undergoing a major transformation. The EU data strategy and the Digital Decade programme set the framework for providing an overview of EU’s data economy goals. Building a common situation awareness of the progress of Finland’s strategic priorities and regulatory processes would ensure that we can be proactive in defining the ground rules and initiatives for the data economy in the future.

There is still a long way to go to the EU’s goal of creating an internal market for data. This will require a reliable knowledge base on cross-border data exchange and mobility within single markets. . One example of a possible indicator for European data economy would be the extent and seamlessness of the flow of health data between member states, as the free movement of EU citizens already is a reality.

The development of data economy must be measured from different perspectives

Data economy indicators are only evolving and calling collaborative measurement efforts. It is important to be able to describe the development of the data economy from different perspectives and provide information for mutual needs to enhance decision making.

There is no uniform or unambiguous definition of the data economy. That is why the indicators used also vary depending on what activities are considered to be part of the data economy. At its narrowest, the data economy is seen as part of business services in compliance with a classification of industrial sectors.

In its broadest sense, the data economy is seen as a phenomenon of using data for economic activity, value creation and consumption. In addition to economic impact, data has social and environmental impacts that need to be considered as a feature of the fair data economy.

Because all organisations and individuals have and use data, it is not appropriate or even practical to separate the data economy from the daily activities of organisations, individuals and government. In the public sector, the productivity benefits of data can be realised by automating services and reducing the need for in-person services, optimising resources and anticipating service needs. At the same time, the productivity gains from data use are hard to measure as specified impacts by extracting the surplus value created by data.

 Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) offers EU-wide data on digital development as enablers of the data economy. However, this statistical data provides little insight into the development of the data economy and its impacts. Nonetheless, the statistics provide a comparable basis, for instance on the deployment of infrastructures such as maturity of ICT connectivity and utilisation of digital technologies in organisations. 

There is less informational support available for to understand how extensively data is used or how it impacts the productivity of services, business transformation, data ecosystems or digital service experience. More real-time information is also needed on the intersection of the demand and supply of data-related skills to meet the needs for data expertise in organisations.

Therefore, EU-wide co-operation is also needed to develop data economy indicators. This work could also be tied in with developing indicators for the Digital Decade.

Knowledge management support

The development of the Data Economy Monitoring Tool is a process of learning from the content of specific focus areas   and their interlinkages forming  impact relations  of the data economy. The tool is a common platform for understanding data economy to support growth-enhancing activities within public and business administration.

Whereas business invests in data productisation and innovation, societal development based on the use of data requires the public sector to invest in skills and infrastructure. As a small and open economy, Finland can succeed in the data economy by putting resources into a public-private partnership requiring innovative funding models and procurement practices. 

Internationally, Finland is at the top of statistical comparisons regarding the prerequisites for digital development. The benefits of digitalisation will be realised if and when data is accessed or flows with the customer between service systems and between organisations in supply chains. Data-driven mobility within value networks is also enabling  the digital green transition, such as carbon footprinting measurement and product information traceability. Optimally, building data-driven situation awareness will support a transformation where organisations can be managed, investments can be targeted and strategic decisions can be made using data. Over time, the impact of actions can  be assessed by cumulative information and trends for foresight and evaluation purposes. 

The monitoring tool supports and complements the national digital compass in tracking data economy policy objectives and has been developed alongside work on the compass. In comparison to the compass, the monitoring tool does not itself set national targets for development but aims to support common goals by providing a knowledge base on data economy progress and opportunities. 

The data economy is by nature a global network. . That is why the monitoring tool needs to reflect Finland’s position in the international competition as well as the global trends of development that we want to influence. 

What next? We engage in solving joint issues regarding measuring and co-building a useful knowledge base

As a next step, it is important to identify gaps in the data that we can fill by generating new data or combining different data sources. Information could also be searched for in new ways, such as by using  technologies in data collection and artificial intelligence in to synthesise large datasets. 

As data is collected over time, it will enable us to assess and forecast the development trends and detect connections between focus areas as the chains of influence. The Ministry of Finance has already started this in the system modelling that maps relations within the digital compass. Also, repeatable surveys, such as the Digibarometre, are of key importance in generating the database on the development of the data economy over time.    

The various contents of the situational picture will change as the data sources are updated. For example, further light will be shed on the section on business transformation  once the  Use of information technology in enterprises  business survey by Statistics Finland regarding the year 2023 is completed. 

The monitoring tool will be further developed in a collaborative manner, taking into account links with national development programmes, strategies and policy objectives. We encourage you to provide feedback on the content, usability and data sources of the monitoring tool to make it relevant to your information needs.

Further reading

The national Roadmap for a Fair Data Economy shows the direction and actions which will drive forward the well-being, green transition and competitiveness of Finland through the use of data. The roadmap also provides information and tools. See the roadmap (in Finnish) here. 

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