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Europe's Digital Future: European Commission launches new European Strategy for Data


The European Commission has just published a new European Strategy for Data (Strategy) as one of its strategies for “shaping Europe’s digital future”. The Strategy outlines the European Commission’s plans to better realise the potential of the vast troves of data gathered daily by the public and private sectors in Europe. The Strategy lays out plans to create a “data-agile economy”, through legislation, investment and sectoral specific actions, enabling greater use to be made of data through measures to increase the interoperability and availability of data. The Strategy is concerned with all forms of data including personal data.

The Strategy outlines actions based on four pillars:

  1. a cross-sectoral governance framework for data access and use
    This pillar entails the introduction of an enabling legislative framework for the governance of common European data spaces, to be announced in Q4 2020.  Common European data spaces are “seamless digital area with the scale that will enable the development of new products and services based on data.”

    This legislative framework will “reinforce the necessary structures in the Member States and at EU level to facilitate the use of data for innovative business ideas, both at sector or domain-specific level and from a cross-sector perspective.”

    This proposed legislative framework will involve making more high-quality public-sector data available for re-use (particularly for the benefit of SMEs).  The framework will include introducing new legislation on data-sharing, both for business-to-government and business-to-business purposes which will address issues related to usage rights for co-generated data.  Revisions to the Database Directive and the Trade Secrets Protection Directive will also be considered.

  2. investment in data, strengthening Europe’s capabilities and infrastructures for hosting, processing and using data and promoting interoperability
    The European Commission sees it as an EU responsibility to foster an environment that supports data driven innovations and stimulates demand for products and services that rely on data. Accordingly, the European Commission will consider how best it can strategically invest in infrastructure, data-sharing tools, architectures and governance mechanisms to improve data-sharing and artificial intelligence ecosystems across the EU.
  3. empowering individuals, investing in skills and in SMEs 
    The European Commission believes that individuals should be further supported in “enforcing their rights with regard to the use of the data they generate.” Interestingly, this could involve further enhancing, at a granular level, data subjects’ right to portability under Article 20 of the GDPR by providing that machine-readable data must be standardised – e.g. requiring that the machine-readable data generated by wearables be of the same format, so that it can be transferred by users if they buy rival products. 

    More generally, the European Commission is considering investing in “skills and general data literacy” to increase the proportion of the EU population with basic digital skills “from the current 57% to 65% by 2025”.

  4. common European data spaces in strategic sectors and domains of public interest
    Finally, the Strategy details plans for the development of common European data spaces in strategic economic sectors and domains of public interest such as health, agriculture and finance. These data spaces will be developed in full compliance with data protection law and in accordance with the highest cyber-security standards, and subject to appropriate governance structures. It is hoped that creating these spaces will stimulate data sharing between public and private entities involved in each sector so as to promote innovation.

The Strategy, along with the White Paper on Artificial Intelligence published by the European Commission at the same time, indicates the intention of the European Commission to turn the EU into a hub of data-driven innovation. The implementation of plans under the Strategy will place more obligations on organisations in the EU to make data more widely accessible and functional for others but should also create an environment rich in opportunity.  

Although the publication of the Strategy imposes no immediate changes, it provides useful insight into how the European Commission plan to prepare for Europe’s digital future; something any organisation involved in this sphere should be aware of. 

If you would like more information on the future implications that Europe’s Digital Strategy could have for your organisation, please contact a member of our Technology Department. 


Contributed by: Andrew Desmond and Annah Kenna




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