From digital sovereignty to data spaces

Digital and data have converted enterprises and changed user experience and society. According to European Center for Policy Strategy, “In the 21st century, those who control digital technologies are increasingly able to influence economic, societal and political outcomes. In this context, the growing ‘geopoliticisation’ of technology implies a paradigm shift in the notion of strategic autonomy… the EU’s ability to defend and promote its interests—as well as its credibility as a strong foreign policy factor—is increasingly a function of its cyber resilience and technological leadership.”

The European Union has responded ambitiously to the challenge Blueprint for the Digital Decade to “pursue a human-centred, sustainable vision for a digital society” and increase “the EU’s strategic autonomy in technology and develop new rules and technologies to protect citizens from counterfeit products, cyber-theft and disinformation”. One of the eight goals of Political Agenda 2030. Road to the Digital Decade is to “ensure digital sovereignty, in particular through a secure and accessible digital infrastructure capable of processing huge volumes of data that enables other technological developments supporting the competitiveness of Union industry”.

The program also proposes to create multinational projects to develop a “common European infrastructure for data and services”. Combined with regulations such as the GDPR, the upcoming Digital Operational Sustainability Act and the Data Act, the Digital Decade programs and projects aim to put Europe at the forefront of reshaping the global data economy along two closely intertwined axes: digital sovereignty and spaces for data.

How are digital sovereignty and data spaces paving the way for the data economy in Europe and beyond?

IDC determines digital sovereignty such as the capacity for self-determination of nations, companies and individuals. Digital sovereignty is more than data sovereignty or data localization. This includes cloud platforms, workload software, data center assets, communications infrastructure, processes and operations used to control and manage digital infrastructure, services, and access and identity.

It is at the heart of a digital Europe where governments, businesses and people have real choices control their data and digital destinies. But digital sovereignty alone is not enough. It is a means to deliver results such as realizing the value of data and data spaces through interoperable, innovative, easy to operate and control, secure, energy efficient, regulatory compliant and sustainable next generation infrastructure and platforms.

The The European Data Strategy of the European Union sets out a bold vision “to create a single European data space — a true single data market open to data from around the world — where personal and non-personal data, including sensitive business data, are protected and businesses also have easy access to an almost infinite amount of high-quality industrial data, driving growth and creating value while minimizing human and environmental carbon footprints.” This bold vision is far from realized. IDC research shows that in the near future there will be no single data space for Europe, let alone the world. There are too many digital sovereignty, governance, semantic and technical interoperability challenges to overcome. However, Europe sets the course for other regions and countries to follow.

Private and public sector actors understand that data sharing is a critical success factor to accelerate their success in the data-driven economy. And they understand that to realize the benefits, data sharing needs to happen not only within each organization, but also with external partners, including outside the industry.

In fact, our research on the future of industrial ecosystems found that over 90% of public and private sector organizations worldwide share data with external partners, although about 60% do so only in limited cases or when strictly necessary. Europe’s vision of Strategic Data Spaces is the next stage of evolution where data sharing can happen on a larger scale and across industry boundaries thanks to:

  1. Unified architectures that dynamically respond to data demand and supply
  2. Governance policies and processes where the matching of supply and demand takes place thanks to trusted rules and intermediaries that enable secure, transparent and fair participation of both data users and data providers
  3. The ability to provide and use data to and from the commons, either for non-profit/altruistic purposes, or for profit, or both

What can European public sector leaders do to take advantage of the twin transitions between digital sovereignty and data spaces?

As for the rest of the economy, public sector organizations are trying to figure out how to use data to improve policy development, service delivery and operational efficiency. In addition to EU-wide initiatives, public sector leaders across the region must play a role in:

  • Incentivize the private sector to help drive both for-profit and nonprofit outcomes while protecting personal data, intellectual property, and trade secrets
  • Work with the technology industry to promote the use of semantic and technical standards for interoperability
  • Collaborate with the technology industry and academia to promote research and development to accelerate the adoption of technologies such as secure hardware architectures, probabilistic computing, and homomorphic encryption that will in the future enable reliable data sharing even on untrusted systems
  • Invest in digital sovereign infrastructures and services for the data spaces where digital self-determination can accelerate value realization
  • Initiate data spaces that have immediate societal benefits, such as digital citizen wallets that ensure citizens only have to provide data to public administration once, and contribute critical data they own to data spaces that span public- private ecosystems, such as healthcare, mobility and the built environment

Join IDC experts and public sector leaders from across Europe on IDC Government Meeting to learn more about digital sovereignty and data spaces and share your experiences.

Data-Driven Public Services and the Future Data Economy in Europe

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