May 20, 2021

Rule Books – Success Factors for Data Spaces

By sharing their data with each other, companies have the chance to enter new areas of business and develop new, innovative business models. At the same time, sharing data with partners and even competitors is both a technical challenge and an entrepreneurial risk. That is why having trust in a data ecosystem is key in unlocking the potential of cross-company data sharing. Rulebooks are perfect to build up trust in data spaces, a recent IDSA Live Session entitled “Rulebooks: Success Factors for Data Spaces“ has underlined.

Establishing an ecosystem for sharing and exchanging data poses multiple technical, operational, organizational, legal and ethical challenges for any party involved. Bilateral agreements lack practicality in such business settings, as already a data ecosystem counting only ten partners would require forty-five bilateral agreements to be concluded. What is much more convenient and economic for setting up a data ecosystem is to use a rule book covering all relevant aspects.

Finnish pilot project pioneering the use of a rule book for cross-company data sharing

One such rule book has been developed by Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund, which is an independent public foundation operating directly under the supervision of the Finnish parliament. In summer 2020, Sitra presented the “Fair Data Economy Rulebook“, which has now been used in a pilot project for the first time. Partners in the pilot project were SEB, a leading Nordic financial services group, and Wärtsilä, a leader in smart technologies and complete lifecycle solutions for the marine and energy markets. Prior to building up their data ecosystem, the two partners signed a consortium agreement and the rule book. Using the checklists and other elements of the rule book, the partners were able to shape and concretize the data ecosystem bit by bit, from clarifying technical procedures to agreeing on legal provisions to eventually implementing the functions necessary for exchanging data.

IDSA‘s rule book approach

Quite similar to the rule book developed by Sitra, IDSA published the IDSA Rule Book covering all aspects relevant for ensuring secure, fair and trustworthy cross-organizational data sharing – both within sector-specific data spaces and across data spaces of different industries. In more detail, IDSA’s rule book covers functional aspects (e.g. definition of services to be rendered), technical aspects (e.g. agreements on standards to be used, specifications to be defined, and certification procedures to be followed), operational aspects (which are divided into three segments: governance, administration, and maintenance), and legal aspects (i.e. connection to applicable laws and other legal provisions, or to recommendations such as Sitra’s “Fair Data Economy Rulebook“).

Trust is key

Data spaces are great for companies to engage in cross-company collaboration and establish cross-company data value chains. To achieve economies of scale, data spaces should aim at including as many actors (i.e. companies, public authorities, research organizations, individuals) as possible. These actors, however, will join a data space only if they have trust in the given infrastructure, and if they can expect secure, fair and trustworthy transactions with other parties. Rule books are capable of establishing trust across data spaces, as they define clear rules of operation at all levels of the data ecosystem.

“Companies don’t do anything from the goodness of their hearts. Companies do things only for three things: to get more revenue, to lower costs, or to reduce risks. Even just starting to talk to another company is actually a risk. We are reducing risks. We are reducing costs because we have reusable components and also sort of legal components. And we can actually show that they can add revenue because they can start creating new services by sharing data because no organization in the world today has all of the data.”

Jyrki Suokas, Senior Lead at Sitra

Achieving three major business goals  

Data spaces guided by rule books thus allow companies to achieve three major goals: increase revenue (as sharing data and establishing new business models allows offering new products and services), lower cost (as existing systems can be used, avoiding the need for developing an own solution), and reduce risk (as rule books significantly lower potential threats and dangers otherwise occurring in cross-company data exchange).

The vision: using rule books in automated processes

Rule books written and read by humans must be seen as one of several critical components when it comes to establishing data spaces – and as only a first step towards bringing regulation into data ecosystems. For the future, we can conceive of solutions capable of “understanding” electronic systems directly. Laws and other legal provisions could then serve as a basis for data space rule books, as they follow a certain logic, similar to a programming language. This way, systems would have the potential to perform automated negotiation and conclusion of clearly defined agreements between each other.

Learn more about rule books at the IDSA Summit on June 22 & 23! Agenda and registration:

Stay updated with us