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Survey: GDPR key to European data economy’s competitiveness

A survey of companies on the state of the data economy in four European countries reveals that the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) could present a competitive edge for European companies in their battle against global tech giants.


Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund, conducted a survey into the attitudes and preparedness of European businesses regarding the data economy between April and May 2019. The survey reveals that companies have started to recognise the potential of data sharing for their business.

More than half, 59 per cent, of the survey respondents in all four countries (Finland, France, Germany and the Netherlands) agree that the data economy presents now or will present in the future a competitive edge for their business. The most optimistic nation was France with up to 69 per cent, and Finland the most pessimistic with only 42 per cent of respondents seeing potential in the data economy for their business.

Forty-nine per cent of all respondents also said that their company had the technical capabilities to share data with other companies. France ranked their ability the highest at 57 per cent, while in Finland the number was only 39 per cent. Forty-two per cent of all respondents said they needed customer data from other companies.

Europe to profit from new data economy models

Nevertheless, the outlook for the data economy in Europe is alarming. The global data economy market is worth close to seven trillion euros. Europe’s market share is only three per cent, while the USA dominates the markets with 66 per cent, with China coming second with 30 per cent.

“Global tech giants have built their own data empires where they manage, share and profit from European data according to their own rules with little regard for the individual’s rights,” notes Jaana Sinipuro, Project Director of Sitra’s IHAN project. ”It is time to restore trust between individuals and companies. This is possible in new, human-driven data economy models.”

As a “think-and-do tank” on societal transformations, Sitra maintains through its IHAN project that there is an urgent need for new data economy models in Europe, where data sharing is made transparent and profitable for all.

“Data economy is still in its infancy, but we need to take action now,” says Sinipuro. “We have the skills, resources and an atmosphere of trust in Europe to challenge global tech giants with transparent digital services that use individual data shared through trust-based ecosystems.”

Is the adoption of the GDPR vital to success?

Over a third of companies in all four of the countries, 37 per cent, said that using the process contained within EU’s GDPR allowed them to better understand their data assets, and that this had had a positive impact on their ability to profit from data sharing.

Sitra’s fair data economy model is built upon GDPR. In the model’s ecosystems, data is shared with the individual’s consent, according to shared, transparent rules. This reinforces an individual’s right to share their data to selected services run by companies committed to the shared rules.

The survey

Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund, conducted a survey The future of European companies in data economy into the attitudes and preparedness of companies towards the business potential and risks posed by the data economy. The study was carried out as a part of Sitra’s international IHAN project. Data collection was carried out in April and May of 2019. The target population consisted of large enterprises and SMEs (excluding entrepreneurs) in Finland, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

An additional research report, What are the benefits of data sharing?, by the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (Etla) explores the topic further in Finland.

The data economy is a universe of initiatives, activities and/or projects whose business model is based on the exploration and exploitation of the structures of databases to identify opportunities for generating products and services.

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