Business-to-Government (B2G) Data Sharing in Europe
Introduction to B2G data sharing
Data sharing is a key enabler of growth, employment and competitiveness for Europe and the Digital Single Market envisaged by the European Union. The non-rivalrous nature of data, combined with technological innovations such as the availability of big data analysis and artificial intelligence applications, enable maximising the value of data. Re-using data can save costs, time and lives.
The benefits from data re-use are not reserved to the private sector. In fact, to become more cost-efficient and provide effective services for citizens, public sector bodies can benefit greatly from data sharing and need to exploit the potential of new data sources. This data can be sourced from the private sector, academia, NGOs or the public sector itself. Much of the data generated in the public sector is already made open for re-use, encouraged by the Directive on Public Sector Information (PSI).
However, there is also data that cannot be made open because of sensitivity or confidentiality. This data can only be shared under special conditions and to a restricted and controlled set of users in order to leverage their value. An example of a value is insight into the behavioural patterns of citizens and businesses across social, political, historical or environmental factors. This insight can help public sector organisations understand, evaluate, predict and prepare for certain situations and scenarios, for example:
- Understanding commuting patterns to support urban planning, road safety and traffic management, as well as environmental protection.
- Additional insight into a population's health conditions, diagnosis and medical treatments can improve public health care and lead to a more effective response to epidemics.
- Market monitoring and payment patterns can help detect fraud and increase consumer protection.
In addition, there are legal, technical and organisational factors that must be considered when setting up a framework for data sharing between businesses and public organisations.
B2G Data sharing in the EU
To further facilitate the European Data Economy, the European Commission initiated the Digital Single Market strategy in 2015. The 2017 Communication "Building a European Data Economy" discussed these opportunities, and in the mid-term review of the Digital Single Market strategy, the Commission committed to exploring this issue further. Furthermore, the European Commission performed a public online consultation and held a stakeholder dialogue between April and June 2017, resulting in the Communication: Towards a common European data space and a Staff Working Document "Guidance on private sector data-sharing" (April 2018).
Other stakeholders like GovLab and The Lisbon Council (a member of the European Data Portal consortium) also dedicated their research to analyse the different aspects of B2G data sharing and collected good practices. GovLab, for example, formulated eight phases of B2G data sharing and categorised different models of B2G data sharing in their DataCollaboratives project.
By reviewing the different findings, we could compare and test the applicability of theoretical models and the principles of B2G data sharing in our Analytical Report to show how they address legal, technical and organisational challenges and other matters that may have not yet been addressed. The report concludes with a six-step plan for successful and sustainable B2G data sharing, developed from our research.
Benefits of B2G data sharing
Benefits of B2G data sharing accumulates in a variety of ways. For businesses, the benefits of providing data are that they can improve their public image due to a proof of their commitment to corporate social responsibility, they can gain new insights from existing or additional data and its analysis and there is a potential revenue from exchanging the data and re-using it. For the public sector, re-using the data can improve their decision-making processes and their service offering, increase efficiency, boost innovation power in research and support technological advancements.
The benefits of B2G data sharing for businesses and public organisations are interlinked and affect each other. For example, higher innovation power in the public sector creates new opportunities for businesses and vice versa.
Challenges for data providers
When sharing data with the public sector, businesses face organisational, technical and legal challenges.
An example of an organisational consideration is customer reaction to data sharing. Beyond the legal and financial risks, companies voice concern around the customers' perception of data sharing, when that might include customer data. This is an issue even when all the necessary precautions are taken to protect confidentiality and privacy. Other considerations are cost and benefits of data sharing and data sharing capability and culture.
In the field of technical requirements, one example is the anonymisation, pseudo anonymisation and aggregation of data. These are techniques that sanitise information to protect people's privacy and to ensure that data that would otherwise be considered personal and confidential, requiring special legal constraints, can be processed and used without it linking back to a person. Additional requirements are selection and preparation of data, data governance and access to data.
In terms of legal guidance, an example is intellectual property rights. Company data is often the combination of very heterogeneous sources, from historical archives, to datasets that are the results of working with suppliers and contractors, where the intellectual property of the data produced may be unclear. Other points of legal guidance to consider are liability and accountability, legal framework and support in data sharing and protecting personal data.
B2G data sharing models
Different actors in research and politics have dedicated their efforts to categorising B2G data sharing models. Generally, it can be said that there is no one approach that suits all situations and even the different models must be adapted based on each individual scenario. Differentiating the models still makes sense in order to understand the different answers to the various needs, especially in the state of designing and assessing data sharing frameworks. The identified models below are not set in stone, they much more occur in combination or in hybrid forms.
- Multi-party data sharing agreement
- Data donorship
- Data partnerships
- Data intermediaries
- Data sharing by regulation
A six-step action plan for B2G data sharing
Successful and sustainable B2G data sharing must be legally compliant, technically feasible, socially acceptable, financially and commercially viable and must mitigate risk effectively.
We have identified six steps that appear to be vital to the success of a B2G initiative.
- Team up with renowned and authoritative third parties
- Involve the customers
- Set up a data sharing framework
- Use a code of conduct
- Specify contractual agreements
- Use new technologies
Due to its novelty and complexity, it can be expected that new actors and new service models will emerge, and new regulations will guide, regulate and support B2G data sharing. We are at the very beginning of an inevitable shift toward achieving the fifth freedom: the free movement of data in the European Digital Market.