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Public opinion and the EU Data Governance Act

Eline Lincklaen Arriëns

Between 19 February and 31 May 2020, the European Commission ran a public consultation on the European Strategy for Data. The consultation aimed to collect peoples’ views and opinions on the data strategy (including open data, data sharing and data spaces), and input on several planned initiatives around access to, and re-use of, data. This included a legislative framework on common European data spaces and an implementing act on a list of high-value datasets under the Open Data Directive.

What I want to do with this piece is inform you about what is happening and being considered at an EU level, and to make clear that our (in)action will affect how future proposals (such as the Data Governance Act) and regulations come to be. To this end, I will do my best in this piece to guide you through some of the key results of the public consultation. Disclaimer, this piece will be number and fact heavy. Please bear with me. 

EU Public Consultation on the European Strategy for Data

The EU publication consultation received a total of 806 contributions, of which 92.2% were from the EU27 Member States. The responders broken down are: ​​​​​

  • 219 from a company, of which 43.4% were SMEs;
  • 201 from EU citizens;
  • 119 from a business association;
  • 98 from academia / research institutions;
  • 57 from public authorities; and
  • 112 undisclosed stakeholder submissions1

Please note that not all 806 contributors answered all questions. In fact, few stakeholders replied to all questions, meaning that the sample size and percentages vary between and within the four sections below.


  1. The data strategy

    97.2% of the 806 respondents confirmed that the EU needs an overarching data strategy to enable the digital transformation of society, with 91.5% agreeing to the following statement:

    “More data should be available for the common good, for example for improving mobility, delivering personalized medicine, reducing energy consumption and making our society greener.”

    Several issues were also identified that stakeholders want addressed by the data strategy. Two examples are data literacy (83.5% of respondents) and difficulties in using data either due to data interoperability or transfer mechanisms for example (almost 80% of respondents). It is expected that these two issues will be key points in the next iterations of the EU Strategy for Data.

  2. Data governance

    This includes data standardisation, secondary use of data, data donation and data intermediaries.

    772 of the 806 respondents answered this section. 90% of the 772 consider data governance mechanisms necessary to capture the enormous potential of data, particularly for cross-sector data use.

    There is a consensus that data standardisation is essential to improve the interoperability of data re-use across all sectors. How this will be handled is yet to be determined. The highest response rate on this subject was that 50% of the 772 respondents believe that national government bodies should provide the necessary funds to open standards around data standardisation.

    Going forward, 69.7% of 742 respondents believe that law and technology should enable citizens to make their data available for the public interest (data altruism), without any direct benefits. However, more than 60% stated that there are no sufficient tools and mechanisms to ‘donate’ their data.

  3. High-value datasets

    Some 761 of the 806 respondents contributed to this section. 82.2% of these respondents answered that a list of high value datasets (available free of charge, with no restrictions and accessible via application programme interfaces) are a good way to ensure that public sector data can have a positive impact on the EU economy and society.

    To complement the high-value datasets, stakeholders also noted the need for standardised formats of data and metadata (87%) or licensing and other terms applicable to data re-use (80%).

  4. The (self-/co-) regulatory context of cloud computing

    Some 617 stakeholders responded to this section. 59% of respondents identified as users of only traditional cloud services and 51% indicated providing edge services next to cloud services.

    61% of respondents state that the current cloud market offers technological solutions that businesses need to continue growing and innovating. However, 48% of 444 stakeholders answered that at one point they have experienced problems in the functioning of the cloud market, and 68% of 449 stakeholders expect risks for the future. The most identified problem is vendor lock-in. The predominant risk for the future is security concerns. Going forward, 59% of responding users and 64% of responding providers state that self-regulation is appropriate to identify best practices to implement EU legislation around cloud computing.

For more information, read the European Commission’s summary report.

… and?

Now, let’s back track from all this information and think about what this actually means for us.

Let’s start by acknowledging that this is one part of a broader stakeholder consultation on the subject and will contribute to several future EU data initiatives, including the implementing act on a list of high-value datasets expected this year. How we as a society answered this public consultation will feed into how the EU data strategy – think data standardisation, publication, re-use, and yes, GDPR and other privacy-related laws – is shaped. We have the ability to be heard and give input into decisions that will shape how we and our peers interact with everything – each other and the inanimate objects in our lives (think Internet of Things, connectivity, etc.).

Over the next weeks, and potentially months, the SCDS team will be breaking down the aforementioned Data Governance Act and deep dive into what this would mean for us at a more practical level. We look forward to sharing these thoughts with you as clearly as is possible (again, bear with us).

If you have thoughts, opinion, or insights into the EU Strategy for Data or the Data Governance act, or an opinion about the upcoming high-value datasets, share them with us via the SCDS forum.  

Image credit:
(c) 2020, European Commission