Earlier this week, the European Commission (EC) released its data strategy with the objective of outlining how the EU can create a more accommodating data economy and become a role model in a society empowered by data.
A Blockchain-based Data Strategy
Amongst a variety of other proposals, the Commission highlights the potential for blockchain technology in data management.
“New decentralised digital technologies such as blockchain offer a further possibility for both individuals and companies to manage data flows and usage, based on individual free choice and self-determination. Such technologies will make dynamic data portability in real time possible for individuals and companies, along with various compensation models.”
The Commission sees blockchain as a tech that offers a unique opportunity for individuals and businesses to manage their data better. It can also help improve the active transfer of data in real-time.
As a decentralized distributed ledger tech, blockchain can be particularly useful in regulating the access to personal data of citizens and ensuring that it is stored in a secure manner. It can essentially help manage data flow so as to empower citizens with control over their personal information.
However, like all new technologies, there exist certain challenges that the Commission needs to resolve before fully integrating the tech moving forward.
For instance, blockchain’s core feature of immutability means that data once entered, cannot be edited or deleted. This is incompatible with European laws such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation that gives citizens the right to request the omission of certain personal data.
Once these issues are tackled, whether, through technological development or the introduction of new legal frameworks, blockchain-based applications for portability of personal data will flourish.
Data and the Future
The EC recognizes that data lies at the center of the digital transformation that we are witnessing today. Not only is it essential for innovation and progress, but it is vital in shaping how we produce, consume, and live.
The figure below shows the EC’s predictions for a data-driven economy five years down the line:
It further argues that data-driven modernization can bring about significant changes that are advantageous to the European population (for example, personalized healthcare and enhanced mobility) and the European economy (for example, for improving policymaking processes and elevating public services).
For instance, in the transportation industry, blockchain-based data-sharing systems can be employed for traffic navigation to save almost 730 million hours and €20 billion in labor costs. They can also enable automatic and real-time notification of delayed trains, which can save around 27 million working hours and €740 million in labor costs.
Additionally, data use in jet engines can ensure efficient operation. Its use in wind farms can optimize wind power. In the health industry, it can provide better resource allocation, which can save billions of Euros globally.
EC’s Three-Pronged Approach
Firstly, the Commission proposes to devise a comprehensive regulatory framework for data governance that oversees how data is shared between governments, businesses, and individuals.
Establishing a fair, practical, and clear set of rules that take into account essential values and rights (such as personal data protection, consumer protection, and corporate competition) can help make public sector data widely available to all – public or private, start-up or giant.
Additionally, the EC hopes to implement programs aimed at enhancing the digital skills of Europeans to give them better control over their data.
Secondly, the EC hopes to invest in next-generation technological infrastructures that can help EU actors take advantage of a data economy and have a high social impact.
Thirdly, the Commission is looking at launching sector-based data spaces, for example, in health, transportation, industrial manufacturing, and so on. This will enable the creation of a single data market for better data sharing within the EU community and across sectors.
Currently, the EC is gathering feedback on its above-stated data strategy, which will be studied and incorporated to further refine the organization’s plan for the development of a data economy.
Through the implementation of this strategy, the Commission hopes to become an “attractive, secure, and dynamic data economy.”