Opening Up Private Data for Public Interest - European Data Market Study - 14 November 2017 Webinar

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Experts estimate that thousands of exabytes of data are in the hands of private companies. Much of that data – on topics as diverse as car movements, medical histories, key population trends, even water consumption - could yield interesting and potentially valuable information on matters of great public interest. Society would benefit from finding ways of accessing these vital sources of non-personal information. We could use the data to improve traffic, evade pandemics, cut carbon emissions, fight cancer, make cities more livable and engineer better, more efficient use of public resources.

However, the difference in the nature and type of the data held means there is no, single universal way of inspiring private companies to share public-interest data or mandating access to it when a mandatable case is there to be made. A wide range of barriers make it nearly impossible to design a single set of universally appropriate rules or incentives. Policymakers will need to apply different solutions to incentivise private-public collaboration in this fast-growing field. They will need to create different measures for vastly different contexts and situations.

Those are the key conclusions of the 14 November 2017 webinar on “Measuring the European Data Economy: Data Market Study.” The session was hosted by the International Data Corporation (IDC) and the Lisbon Council as part of a long-term European Union funded project on “Building a European Data Economy.” The webinar – the first in a series – brought together more than 40 leading experts in the field around the theme of “Opening Private Sector Data of Public Interest for Public Authorities.”

Participants broadly agreed that “there is ‘no one size fits all,’” in the words of Lisbon Council Director of Research David Osimo, who moderated the session. Policy measures should take into account many different factors, such as the existence of functioning markets, the cost of data preparation, the importance of the benefits to be achieved, the level of aggregation and the anonymisation of data. Everything depends on the context. And successful collaborations will require innovative, novel approaches. Stefaan Verhulst, co-founder and chief research and development officer at the GovLab (a research centre at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering) weighed in with an original taxonomy. He described six ways of collaborating in this fast-growing area: 1) data cooperatives or pooling; 2) research partnerships, 3) Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), 4) prizes and challenges, 5) intelligence products and 6) trusted intermediaries. To learn more about this fascinating presentation, visit

Others stressed there are points of contact and common ground that could be used to create a sustainable model for public-private data sharing. Nuria Oliver, director of data science research at Vodafone and chief data scientist at the Data-Pop Alliance (a global coalition of big data and development created by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, MIT Media Lab and the London-based Overseas Development Institute) suggested that – to reach this objective – a project has to be socially acceptable, legally compliant, financially and commercially viable and technically feasible. She highlighted the huge variety of social applications for mobile data (including public health, natural disaster management, transportation, energy and others).

Furthermore, Peter Bjørn Larsen, director of City Data Exchange (a successful public-private data exchange operating in Copenhagen), said the key to making progress was to identify the barriers doing the most to keep companies from sharing data. Generally, problems arise due to the lack of skills, data availability, business models, finance and incapacity to meet regulations and security standards.

Giorgio Micheletti, consulting director of IDC, estimated that the EU data economy reached €300 billion in 2016, accounting for nearly 2% of EU gross domestic product (GDP). “It could produce even greater societal benefits, beyond GDP growth,” he added.

But getting access to data is only the “beginning of the journey,” as Ms Nuria pointed out in her very interesting tour d’horizon. It is equally important to provide the appropriate infrastructure, tools and skills needed to extract value from data.

Our journey is only beginning, too. Building on the success of this first webinar, the Lisbon Council and IDC will continue collaborating to provide new insights on the European data market. Please watch out for the next webinar, which will convene around the theme of “open science,” in the spring of 2018. In the meantime, keep in touch by visiting