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The evolution of data sharing in Europe

Eline N. Lincklaen Arriens

Data sharing in Europe

For the past years, the European Union has been working to promote the Digital Single Market. One of their focuses was to facilitate the publication of good quality open data, promote awareness of its benefits to society and encourage its re-use to create and support goods and services. An example of an EU funded open data initiative is the European Data Portal (EDP), which was launched in November 2015. Over time, it was realised that there are valuable datasets that cannot be published in the open because of sensitivity or confidentiality, for example. To still be able to exploit the data’s potential and gain insights on aspects such as citizen’s behavioural patterns and social, economic or environmental factors, data needs to be shared.1 This mentality and the ambitions of the EU Digital Single Market contributed to the launch of the Support Centre for Data Sharing.

Data sharing is pivotal for entities (public bodies, government organisations, private companies, and individual citizens alike) across Europe. There are several reasons for this. One, and arguably the most important and lucrative for different organisations, is that it provides new opportunities. For example, the creation of a new service or solution, which in turn will create new revenue streams. Irrespective of the primary motivation to investigate and start data sharing, stakeholders across Europe are already sharing information with other parties to, for instance, gain insights or additional data and analysis about a specific matter, challenge or sector.

Data sharing in times of COVID-19


The impacts of the virus are widespread and vast, spanning across the entire globe; affecting industries ranging from agriculture to transport, and health and energy; and people irrespective of their economic situation. In short, COVID-19 has forced citizens in Europe and beyond to adapt their way of life and how aspects of their daily life work. This includes data sharing.2 In the past months, several pieces have already been written about how COVID-19 impacts different areas in Europe:

  • Unmasking society’s supply shortcoming, with a focus on how the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted society’s failure to meet demand and how data sharing can (and could have) support medical facilities in times of a crisis.
  • The national medical way forward, a deep-dive into two examples of countries sharing health-related data to combat the spread of COVID-19.
  • The Individual and the Collective, looking at how the individual and collective mentality impacts COVID-19 responses at a broader level and our notion of privacy.
  • The Individual vs. the Collective amidst COVID-19, focusing on examples of national responses around data sharing during the pandemic from a Western (the Netherlands) and Eastern (China) perspective and thoughts about going forward post-COVID.

As Europe emerges from the first wave of the pandemic, data sharing will continue to grow and shape how stakeholders gain insights and make decisions. In the immediate aftermath, countries will continue to exploit data sharing to mitigate the spread of the virus and the possible occurrence of a second wave. This could be by, for example, implementing stricter regulations or maintaining current restrictions. Or (possibly and), by continuing to escalate data sharing for stakeholders and industries in sectors such as health. Right now, we have no idea how data sharing will evolve and what the lessons learned from this experience in Europe are. That leads to a final note and question to the readers: How do you see data sharing evolving in Europe, due to or irrespective of COVID-19?

The evolution of data sharing in Europe
Credito de imagen:
(C) 2017, S. Hermann & F. Richter