What is data sharing?

What is data sharing?
There still is no universally accepted definition for what is called “data sharing”, or “shared data”. It is not uncommon for it to take time before one of the many possible names and definitions of a new technology or practice becomes mainstream. At the Support Centre for Data Sharing (SCDS), with the term “data sharing” we refer to the collection of practices, technologies, cultural elements and legal frameworks that are relevant to transactions in any kind of information digitally, between different kinds of organisations. The terms “data sharing” and “shared data” are often used interchangeably, however, we at SCDS prefer “data sharing”. The reason is that our focus is on the practices of sharing, not on the data.

Changes in data sharing
Data sharing is not a new thing. Individuals, organisations, and governments have been sharing information since before computers and networks existed. Over the last decade, however, progress in digital literacy and skills, technology, and the adaptation of legislative frameworks to the digital space have enabled data to be shared faster and at an unprecedented scale. The data sharing practice examples that we have started collecting demonstrate this sea change. JoinData, for example, stimulates sustainable innovation in the Dutch agricultural sector by enabling farmers to share their data in a fast, easy and secure way. Three elements have dramatically changed the spectrum of opportunities for information sharing:

  • The first is the increased availability and quality of data, and how affordable and easy it is today to store, process and transfer it.
  • The second is the culture change: today we understand data better, we are ready to see it as a resource and to invest in it – and this applies to governments, private organisations and individuals alike.
  • And finally, the third element is the involvement of policymakers, who understand better than in the past the implications of digital in people’s lives, and are committed to regulating in this field in the best way possible. Awareness of the opportunities and risks of data sharing is integral to this process.

Regulating does not necessarily translate into restricting – e.g. to protect people’s personal data – but also into empowering stakeholders to better exploit its opportunities, by creating regulation that is unambiguous on what is legal and what is not.

Benefits of data sharing
Combining these three elements creates a huge space of opportunities:

  • Organisations and public authorities can share more data between them, and can do it in a way that is secure, fair, lawful and respectful of the rights of those that the data concerns.
  • Combining data from different sources can increase the performance and value of services by orders of magnitude. It enables better research and development, and the delivery of better products.
  • Sharing data enables unprecedented collaboration and data-driven decision-making, informing policy and amplifying social impact.

While there are currently few studies 1 that have researched and quantified the potential value of a data-sharing economy, it is not just intuitive that making the best use of these opportunities is paramount. It is the ambition of SCDS to support you in this discovery.

Data sharing practice examples

The Data Sharing Toolkit collects lessons learned, resources, and recommendations that span from the access, exploitation, and evaluation of data on one side, to the creation of sustainable businesses on the other.
Discover Ctrl-Shift's work on data sharing - building on the individual's right to data portability.
Find out how the governments of Estonia and Finland cooperate in NIIS to enable cross-border data sharing.
Discover how JoinData enables data sharing in the Dutch agricultural sector.
Read how MaaSMadrid improves transport services by combining multiple data sources.
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