By John Higgins, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE

A second wave of digital transformation is coming. The first one revolutionized the way we order information and spans technological advances from the advent of the mainframe computer to the arrival of Internet search. This second wave will reinvent how we make things and solve problems. Broadly it can be summed up in two words: Big Data.

The expression ‘Big Data’ is used to describe the ability to collect very large quantities of data from a growing number of devices connected through the Internet.

Thanks to vast storage capacity and easy access to supercomputing power – both often provided in the cloud – and rapid progress in analytical capabilities, massive datasets can be stored, combined and analysed.

In the next five years Big Data will help make breakthroughs in medical research in the fight against terminal illnesses. Per capita energy consumption will decline sharply thanks to smart metering – another application of Big Data. Traffic jams will be rarer, managing extreme weather conditions will become more science, less guesswork. Makers of consumer goods of all kinds will be able to reduce waste by tailoring production to actual demand.

This new ‘data economy’ will be fertile ground that will allow many new European SMEs to flourish.

Broad adoption of such Big Data applications can only happen if the data is allowed to flow freely, and if it can be gathered, shared and analyzed by trusted sources. Size definitely does matter. The bigger the dataset, the more insights we can glean from it, so it’s important that the data can flow as widely as possible.

Some elements of Big Data might involve personal data. People need to be confident these are protected by laws and agreements (such as safe harbour). All actors in the data economy must work hard to ensure that data is as secure as possible against theft and fraud.

The European Commission has taken an important first step in outlining possible elements of an EU action plan for advancing towards the data-driven economy and addressing Europe’s future societal challenges.

To complement this initiative DIGITALEUROPE has drafted a paper (click here to check it out) outlining what we see as the policy focus in relation to Big Data. We have identified eight priorities:

• Adopt a harmonised, risk-based and modern EU framework for personal data protection that creates trust while at the same time enabling societally beneficial innovations in the data economy

• Encourage the protection of Big Data applications from cyber-attacks, focusing regulatory efforts on truly critical infrastructures

  • Support the development of global, voluntary, market-driven and technology-neutral standards to ensure interoperability of datasets

• Clarify the application of EU copyright rules so to facilitate text and data mining

• Boost the deployment of Open Data by transposing the Public Sector Information Directive into national law by June 2015 at the latest (EU Member States)

• Create trust in cross-border data flows by supporting the implementation of the Trusted Cloud Europe recommendations

• Continue addressing the data skills gap by supporting initiatives like the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs

• Continue encouraging private investment in broadband infrastructure and HPC technologies with public funding

DIGITALEUROPE is ready to engage constructively with the European Commission, Parliament and Council to help them formulate a European action plan for the data economy.

It is essential to get this policy framework right., but it is also important to move fast. While Europe is preparing the ground for widespread adoption of the new digital age, the rest of the world is not standing still.

Click here to check our DIGITALEUROPE position paper: Making Europe fit for the Data Economy article


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