October 7, 2022

Sitra, IDSA, Rule Books & the Data Spaces Support Centre

We met online with Antti ‘Jogi’ Poikola to discuss the complementary aspects of two key players in data spaces: IDSA, and Sitra, Finland’s innovation fund. Jogi is lead data architecture specialist for Sitra. He also sits on the board of MyData Global – an award-winning non-profit which supports individuals’ rights over their personal data.

Our goal across three conversations was to examine how Sitra and IDSA support data sovereignty in the burgeoning European data economy. Each article in the series follows a distinct, but related thread: The first explored how IDSA and Sitra complement each other in their approach to implementing data spaces. We then looked at how IDSA and Sitra use rule books to build trust in data spaces and unlock the potential of cross-sector, cross-domain data-sharing. Finally, we delved into their role in the design and implementation of the Data Spaces Support Centre (DSCC), a consortium of which both IDSA and Sitra are members. The DSSC is attracting a lot of attention right now. Jogi tells us why.

Let’s go.

Jogi, good morning. Sitra, IDSA, Rule Books, the Data Spaces Support Centre… there’s so much we want to explore with you today. But first, a little context. Where are you calling from, and why are you so well positioned to give us an insight into the big changes underway in the European Data Economy?

I’m calling from Helsinki, where I’ve been working on the fair data economy for basically my entire professional life. I started working for Sitra in June this year as a lead Data Architecture Specialist. Previously, I co-authored the MyData white paper in 2014 while founding MyData Global, established in 2018. During that time, I was also working as a researcher for Aalto University. I then joined the digitalization team of Technology Industries of Finland (TIF).

Excellent, so you must have a unique insight into how these organizations are connected.

I think so. And I would add that TIF is also a member of IDSA, and that I was the contact point for TIF as they applied for membership. I am now in IDSA’s rule book working group and following some of the work streams in IDSA too.

A finger in every pie. How has your perspective on data sharing shifted over this time?

While working for TIF, I was heavily involved in looking at the legal landscape of the data economy, and in influencing the formation of the Data Governance Act (DGA). In my current job at Sitra, I focus more on the technology – we have to consider the business, legal, and technological implications of the new economy. We must also think hard about the societal impact. The data economy has to amount to a force for good. That’s why MyData has such a strong focus on helping people and organizations benefit from their personal data in a human-centric way – to create a fair, sustainable, and prosperous digital society for all. It also ties in nicely with my personal motto: ‘where data meets society.’

What it boils down to is data sovereignty. To give you a clear picture of how these organizations interact in Finland to bring this about: Sitra hosts the Finnish GAIA-X hub, VTT hosts the Finnish IDSA hub, and finally MyData Global is based in Finland. These three organizations are all part of the aforementioned Data Spaces Support Centre and work across borders to help organizations exploit the value of their data.

Can you tell us more about Sitra, and how their activities complement IDSA’s actions?

Sitra approaches data sharing on three levels. First: what does it mean for individuals? That’s personal data. Second: What does it mean for organizations? This is where we’re pushing for data spaces. Third: What does it mean for society? This is where we look at the whole data space environment and the regulations shaping the fair data economy.

As for how Sitra and IDSA complement each other, it might be helpful to come at this through the DSSC. In the Digital Europe funding program, I discovered a funding call for a Data Spaces Support Centre, which was going to support the European Data Innovation Board (EDIB). Now, the EDIB is defined in the Data Governance Act (DGA), which I knew, and know, like the back of my hand. I also knew that the EDIB would have a mandate to approve the common guidelines for European data spaces. So I thought, wow, ok, here is a funding call stating that the group that gets the funding for the DSSC has the mandate to support the EDIB. That was when I said to myself, okay, Sitra is involved in the Data Sovereignty Now initiative, and so is IDSA… I’m going to take this call to Lars Nagel and the team at IDSA, and to the leadership in Sitra, and tell them we need to work together on this.

Ok, you saw an opportunity for collaboration on the DSSC, thereby supporting the European Data Innovation Board. The EDIB, correct me if I’m wrong, will enhance the interoperability of data and data intermediaries between different sectors and domains.

That’s right. Specifically, the EDIB will develop consistent practices for authorities to use to confirm whether or not a data intermediary complies with the requirements set out in the DGA. Intermediaries need to meet these requirements to be acknowledged as a ‘provider of data intermediation services recognized in the union.’

Am I right in thinking you weren’t actually working at Sitra at that time.

Exactly. But I knew Sitra should be part of the proposal, as they care deeply about what happens in this area. The key thing is that there is an obvious lineage in the creation of a de facto standard for data sharing according to a European model, which is to say, a decentralized data space economy. Now we have a legal basis from the Data Governance Act for how these de facto guidelines should be set, as well as a project – the DSSC – supporting the development. Both Sitra and IDSA are promoting the rule book approach in bringing this about. In fact, IDSA’s rule book relies on some of the work done in Sitra, so there’s a lot of resonance between the organizations.

Fascinating. It seems the Data Sovereignty Now project is where Sitra’s and IDSA’s values really began to intersect, and that your action to bring them together to answer the funding call for the DSSC was instrumental in their further alignment. As to how exactly, you have just put your finger on, which segues nicely into our next topic: rule books. Many thanks Jogi, and see you in part two.

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