There are many reasons that explain why data is becoming increasingly important in our lives.

How can Europe take the lead in the business of data?

--- Posted by Khalil Rouhana , DG INFSO, Director "Digital Content and Cognitive Systems"

There are many reasons that explain why data is becoming increasingly important in our lives.

Firstly, a large number of devices - from scientific instruments like genomic sequencers or telescopes to mobile phones to very tiny sensors -  generate much more data than humans could by themselves.

Secondly, advances in digital storage technologies mean it is now cost effective to store large quantities of data for further analysis.

Finally, advances in information retrieval to data mining and machine learning have made it possible to extract very valuable information from enormous amounts of data so that we are now able to analyse phenomena that were too big for us to perceive.

Size is not the only thing that has changed. In the last few years we have discovered that certain types of data  -particularly non-private data collected by public administrations- are worth more when shared than when locked up. And that datasets are worth even more when they are linked to one another so that properties of various objects of interest -companies, products, and geographic features- can be aggregated from independently developed datasets.

More needs to be done to reflect on how Europe could benefit from these developments and lead where it is strong and here are a few ideas that we will explore at the day-long Data workshop of the Digital Agenda Assembly on 21 June.

- What is needed to set up EU-wide data markets to allow those with data to sell it as a product?  

- And how can those who want to buy data do so at a fraction of what it would cost to gather it from scratch?

- If novel software products and services rely increasingly on large amounts of data, could data resources, particularly multilingual data, become a competitive feature of European cloud computing?

- Are there any data domains that ought to be managed as Europe-wide public goods? How should we identify them and how should we arrange for the provision of such public goods?

- Linking data is valuable because it allows information to flow across the boundaries of data resources. But what are the implications that arise when it is possible to identify individuals who wish to stay anonymous?  What if an individual's is disclosed against their wishes? How do we strike a fair balance between the economic potential for product development and the right to individual privacy?

We look forward to receiving your thoughts and suggestions online before the Digital Agenda Assembly in June. You can feed the debate and share your ideas as of now here:

If you intervene on Twitter, please use #da12data


(Image: Wordle, telling it nicely - by suzannelong - on Flickr - CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

1 October 2012
Last update: 
16 March 2016