MEPs call for a European strategy for data that establishes EU as sector leader

Large quantities of quality data, notably non-personal - industrial, public, and commercial - already exist in the EU and their full potential is yet to be explored, the European Parliament's industry, research and energy committee said

Enabling data flow between sectors and countries will help European businesses of all sizes to innovate and thrive in Europe and beyond and help establish the EU as a leader in the data economy, the European Parliaments’s industry, research and energy committee, said.

It was responding the European Commission's ‘European Strategy for Data’ which focuses on how the EU can find a European way to unleash the potential of data use and set standards.

The Commission projects that the data economy in the EU could grow from €301 billion in 2018 to €829 billion in 2025, with the number of data professionals rising from 5.7 to 10.9 million.

Europe's global competitors, such as the US and China, are innovating quickly and applying their ways of data access and use. To become a leader in the data economy, the EU should find its own European way to unleash the potential.

Data is at the heart of the EU's digital transformation that is influencing all aspects of society and the economy. It is necessary for the development of artificial intelligence, which is one of the EU's priorities, and presents significant opportunities for innovation, recovery after the COVID-19 crisis and growth, for example in health and green technologies.

The committee called for legislation focused on people and based on European values of privacy and transparency that will enable Europeans and EU-based companies to benefit from the potential of industrial and public data.

MEPs said that the pandemic has shown the need for efficient data legislation that will support research and innovation. Large quantities of quality data, notably non-personal - industrial, public, and commercial - already exist in the EU and their full potential is yet to be explored. In the coming years, much more data will be generated. MEPs expect data legislation to help tap into this potential and make data available to European companies, including small and medium-sized enterprises, and researchers.

MEPs said rules should be based on privacy, transparency and respect for fundamental rights. The free sharing of data must be limited to non-personal data or irreversibly anonymised data. Individuals must be in full control of their data and be protected by EU data protection rules, notably the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The committee called on the Commission and EU countries to work with other countries on global standards to promote EU values and principles and ensure the Union’s market remains competitive.

Calling for the free flow of data to be the guiding principle, MEPs urged the Commission and EU countries to create sectoral data spaces that will enable the sharing of data while following common guidelines, legal requirements and protocols. In light of the pandemic, MEPs said that special attention should be given to the Common European Health Data Space.

As the success of the data strategy depends largely on information and communication technology infrastructure, MEPs called for accelerating technological developments in the EU, such as cybersecurity technology, optical fibres, 5G and 6G, and welcomed proposals to advance Europe's role in supercomputing and quantum computing.

They warned that the digital divide between regions should be tackled to ensure equal possibilities, especially in light of the post-Covid recovery.

While data has the potential to support green technologies and the EU's goal to become climate neutral by 2050, the digital sector is responsible for more than 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions. As it grows, it must focus on lowering its carbon footprint and reducing E-waste, MEPs said.

Parliament is set to vote on the committee report during a plenary session in March.

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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