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Fair rules to improve the flow of data

Data is like water that makes everything grow and thrive. However, the benefits of an enhanced data flow is all too often prevented by obstacles such as how legislation is interpreted or a lack of know-how. A set of principles to govern a data economy is one way of overcoming these obstacles, but the implementation of these principles is what will ultimately determine their effectiveness.


Laura Halenius

Project Director, Competitiveness through data


Digitisation, artificial intelligence and the data and platform economies will play a key role in guiding the European economy along a new and sustainable growth path. In the long term, the growth in the economy and in employment is dependent on whether the full potential of digitisation opportunities can be realised in the industrial transformation.

The better use of data also constitutes a critical prerequisite for our ability to move towards a circular economy. If we manage to create successful practices for the fair and transparent processing of personal data in Europe, under Finland’s leadership, European consumer services can compete fairly in markets that are currently defined by unfair competition.

In Europe, access to data and data usability have become obstacles to economic growth. Access to data repositories is especially difficult for small companies. To overcome these obstacles, Finland has defined the data economy as one of the strategic priorities for its EU presidency. The Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Education and Culture have devised a set of data economy principles to promote a human-centric, thriving and balanced data economy. These principles concern:

  • access to data
  • data sharing
  • the functional capacity of individuals
  • innovation
  • trust
  • learning.


New innovations falter without common principles

These data economy principles fit perfectly with Sitra’s fair data economy development work. We aim to enable the creation of new data-based services and products that are not solely based on data collected by companies or public entities but also on data collected from other data sources. We believe that more extensive use of data under shared, fair rules will result in new services in both the private and public sector, leading to increased well-being and easier daily life for citizens.

Over the last year, Sitra has piloted new concepts based on individual data in collaboration with pioneering businesses, which aim to span corporate, sectoral and national boundaries. However, some of our pilots have encountered the above-mentioned obstacles that prevent the creation of new innovative services. For example, users of the Kanta service can print out their data, but the customer data log prevents the efficient use of their data in other services. During our pilots, we have noticed that the principles devised by the ministries are far from working well in practice.

We need dialogue to translate the principles into actions

Now we need measures that will put these good principles into action. Testing environments are one way to take the principles forward. For example, an individual’s ability to manage the use of their own information cannot mean that a special act enabling this needs to be introduced for each useful public administration data repository.

We need a “sandbox”, which is a sort of a testing laboratory maintained by the authorities. In this laboratory, it is possible to develop new kinds of services based on co-operation between the public and private sectors and to remove obstacles preventing smooth data flow. It is possible to learn about emerging phenomena, such as the secure use of personal data in accordance with mydata principles, in the sandbox testing environment.

A discussion on the principles of data use are a good starting point, and we hope that as many as possible take part in this discussion. However, this discussion should provide different means of translating the principles into action. This can only be achieved through dialogue, in which different stakeholders are listened to and their message is understood.

Therefore, initiatives on how the data economy principles should be put into practice are needed. We need transparent research- and experiment-based decision-making. We also need incentives that will make companies open up and share the data they collect.

We challenge you to overcome the obstacles preventing the flow of data and tell us what you think about the data economy principles. The discussion is open until 30 October 2019 at www.dataprinciples2019.fi.

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