November 3, 2022

“The DSSC will be coordinating all relevant actions on sectoral data spaces in Europe”

Welcome to the third and final article in our series conversations with Jogi Poikola. In part one, he revealed how Sitra and IDSA share a commitment the guiding principle of data sovereignty, which lead them to further align their values in the context of the Data Spaces Support Centre (DSSC). In part two, he opened a window onto rule books, and how they constitute a common approach for data space hubs such as Sitra’s GAIA-X, IDSA, and MyData as they foster data sharing in the spirit of mutual trust.

In part three we return to the Data Spaces Support Centre, a consortium of 12 renowned data communities, industry players, and research organizations, whose goal is to support the establishment of common data spaces in Europe by making technologies and standards widely available across sectors. It will provide both a blueprint for data spaces in Europe and facilitate support activities such as a knowledge and resource sharing web portal, a help desk, toolboxes, and active stakeholder engagement.

Jogi, the DSSC promises to coordinate all actions related to data spaces, and to make architecture and data infrastructure requirements available across the public sector and European businesses. You mentioned that both IDSA and Sitra are members of the DSSC consortium. As a way into our discussion of the importance of the DSSC, perhaps I could ask you a fundamental question: Who, or what, is a data intermediary. This seems vital to understand, since the DSSC is supporting the European Digital Innovation Board (EDIB) in enhancing the interoperability of data intermediaries (as well as data itself) between different sectors and domains.

Ok, well let’s take the example of MyData operators. We have about 40 organizations facilitating data transactions between data sources and data-using services. These operators – the intermediaries – don’t collect and use the data. Rather, they are the equivalent of phoneline operators, managing the connections between the different parties. It’s the same idea with data spaces, which exist to facilitate the connections between parties.

I suppose that raises the question: when does a data space really need an intermediary? Could parties simply create their own point-to-point contracts on the basis of their own needs? Why the middleman?

MyData, along with Sitra and IDSA have been grappling with this question a lot recently. However, if we look at the potential scale of data sharing, we can find a clear answer. I don’t know about you, but I have about 200 accounts on my LastPass password manager. That’s probably a little high for the world average, but if we take 8 billion people and multiply that by the number of connections they have through which they are sharing their data, we get an idea of how necessary intermediaries are for providing the infrastructure for cross-border, cross-jurisdiction data exchange. We don’t envisage a world in which hundreds of millions, even billions, of people start procuring IDSA connectors to get connected to data spaces – they need to get these connection tools as a service from trusted intermediaries.

And let’s face it: enterprises aren’t prepared to jump through any hoops to connect to a data space. It has to be effortless. That’s why organizations like MyData and IDSA need a common connector-architecture, and solid, well-defined rule books and so on. And they have to acknowledge the vital role of the operators – the intermediaries – serving enterprises as they unlock the potential of their data.

Your example makes it really clear how, for the sheer variety of users seeking to access data spaces, there need to be organizations – the intermediaries – who serve them. But to do that, they have to share common business models and common requirements. There has to be a framework of mutual trust and regulation supporting them.

Which is why the Data Governance Act (DGA) has explicitly recognized and regulates the role of data intermediaries. We don’t want it to turn into the wild west after all, which is a risk in an emerging market where there is so much at stake. With this in mind, the Data Innovation Board, supported by the DSSC, will play an important role in interpreting the DGA’s legal requirements that data intermediaries must meet to receive the official title ‘provider of data intermediation services recognised in the union.’

What sort of time scales are we looking at? When can we expect the EDIB and the DSSC begin to come to fruition?

The DSSC officially begins on October 1st this year. The Digital Europe program, funded by the European Commission, will be set up and operating the DSSC by the end of 2025. The DSSC will then be coordinating all relevant actions on sectoral data spaces in Europe. The EDIB, though legally ratified, will be implemented approximately 18 months from now.

This is actually where Sitra comes into play once more. Our role is to support the EDIB once it exists. Until then, we have a real opportunity to influence its emergence and final form. So we’re actually considering, with IDSA, preparing a position paper or equivalent describing our vision for the EDIB. That way we can ensure it fulfils its maximum potential for the European data economy.

It sounds like there’s no time to lose.

You know, in the last hundred years, we’ve seen these seismic shifts in areas such as public education, labor rights, and health care. So much can happen in so little time. Right now, we’re on the cusp of another such change, except, when it comes to digitalization and data, our societies are likely to be affected more quickly and deeply than anything we’ve experienced before. Digitization’s transformative power will be seen most clearly where data meets society, which is kind of my personal tagline. MyData, the Data Spaces Support Centre, Sitra, IDSA, the data space hubs… they all energize this interaction.

Where data meets society. That’s a beautiful, and exciting note to end on. Jogi, thanks for your time and insight.

My pleasure.

This brings us to the end of our three-part series of conversations with Jogi Poikola. Over the three articles, we have explored how IDSA and Sitra complement each other in their approach to implementing data spaces. We have also seen 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, Jogi has illuminated their role in the design and implementation of the Data Spaces Support Centre (DSCC), a consortium of which both IDSA and Sitra are members. You can find out more about IDSA’s rule book approach here, and Sitra’s here. Jogi gives an excellent talk on the interaction between the DGA, the DSSC, and the EDIB, which you can watch here.

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