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Data sovereignty and soft infrastructures are key enablers for the next phase of the European data economy

In order to achieve the goals of the European data strategy it is necessary to make data sovereignty a design principle and develop a soft infrastructure for data sharing, suggests the new white paper.


As underlined by the new European data strategy, the European Commission wants to make Europe fit for the digital age and unleash the full benefits of better data usage for everyone. Data is essential for the creation of new business models for data-driven innovations and services.

However, there are two things standing in the way of access to sufficient data. One is a growing unwillingness to share data because of privacy and security concerns. The other is the inability to share data because of a lack of interoperability – the ability of different systems to work in conjunction with each other and for devices, applications or products to connect and communicate in a co-ordinated way, without extra effort from the user.

In order to make a European single market for data a reality, the white paper Data sovereignty and soft infrastructures are key enablers for the next phase of the European data economy suggests making data sovereignty a design principle, developing a soft infrastructure for data sharing and focusing on adoption of this infrastructure.

“The task now is to create a soft infrastructure for data sharing based on sound consent, data transfer and trust mechanisms,” says Mariane ter Veen from INNOPAY. “The infrastructure must work for every person, business and government in the EU, and in terms of standardisation must go beyond regulation and governance alone. We have today reached a similarly pivotal point in history as in the early days of the internet, just before standards such as TCP and IP [Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol] were agreed.”

The European Commission can play a key role by establishing an EU-wide soft infrastructure or trust framework for cross-sectoral data governance. This should be built around easy-to-grasp and actionable guidelines encompassing all relevant aspects: business, legal, ethical and technical.

“The quickest and most effective regulatory intervention for the EC is to make data sovereignty mandatory for businesses and the public sector over the coming decade,” says Jaana Sinipuro from Sitra. “The aim should be to nudge businesses and governments into giving their users, customers and people tools to manage, share and benefit from using their data. This will eventually lead to new innovative services and economic growth.”

There are already several ongoing European initiatives or projects that are defining soft infrastructures. For example, the architectural models of the International Data Spaces Association, iSHARE and IHAN have a lot in common and could easily augment each other.

This white paper emphasises how this approach will accelerate the execution of the data strategy and build a solid and sustainable foundation for the next phase of the European data economy.

The white paper deals with the same topic as Sitra’s IHAN project, which lays the foundation for a fair data economy in which successful digital services are based on trust and create value for everyone.

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