Estimated reading time 3 min
This post has been archived and may include outdated content

Controversial EU General Data Protection Regulation could launch human-driven data economy

The value of data as a new and unlimited natural resource is universally recognised, but a real jackpot is coming for whoever controls data in the future.


Jukka Vahti

Project Director, Digital power and democracy


The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which takes effect at the end of May, could have much more far-reaching consequences than anticipated if service providers are able to take advantage of the hidden opportunities, according to Sitra experts familiar with the future prospects of the data economy. So far the focus of GDPR has been on the costs and obligations that it imposes on organisations.

Project director Jaana Sinipuro of Sitra says that GDPR could be a start signal for a more human-driven data economy in which the individual will have considerably better possibilities to control data concerning themselves than they have now. On the other hand, service providers worthy of people’s trust can also get access to significantly more extensive and varied data reserves.

“In previous projects we have noticed that the availability and usability of data has become a bottleneck for the development of new services. It has been difficult especially small companies to gain access to data. A human-driven data economy would significantly accelerate the growth and versatility of the service ecosystem”, Sinipuro says.

Counterforce to data giants’ oligarchy?

The services of a human-driven data economy would ease people’s everyday lives by utilising several different sources of data with the permission of the people and in a transparent manner. The services could transcend traditional boundaries between branches of activity, for example in health, well-being, transport, agriculture and forestry, or financial services. One example of this type of service that utilises several different sources of data that already exist is the pre-completed Finnish tax return.

The European Commission has calculated that the value of services based on the data economy on the European market will reach 739 billion euros by 2020. If the GDPs of different countries are examined in proportion with each other, Finland’s data economy potential could be about 12 billion euros on the basis of the same calculation.

Antti Kivelä, Director of Sitra’s Capacity for Renewal theme, points out that the figures are indicative of a general trend, but they reveal the scale of the possibilities of the digital economy. He feels its greatest challenge facing renewal is not connected with technology, but rather changing ways of thinking and action from the present platform economy model dominated by gigantic international companies into something that is genuinely human-driven.

“Finland and the Finns have very good possibilities for success in a more human-driven data economy. We have an advanced infrastructure, with the Data Exchange Layer, legislation that allows good data reserves, and a positive attitude toward technology”, Kivelä says.

Facebook and several other international data company giants have recently been repeatedly accused of a lack of transparency and misuse of data. Questions related to data have at the same time become one of the hottest topics of discussion. According to Kivelä a more human-driven data economy than what we have now would also help establish a counterforce to the prospects of global megatrends such as the polarisation of knowledge, skills, wealth, and inclusivity.

Read more about the IHAN – Human-Driven Data Economy project here.

What's this about?