FAME: Delivering on the EU Data Strategy

November 15, 2023

Data is Omnipresent

Data is omnipresent. Whether it is information (structured data), knowledge (combined information), experience (used knowledge) or otherwise, and whether it resides between our ears, in libraries, in sensors, in digital wallets, online or other systems and environments.

Perhaps that is the reason why the notion of data is so difficult to grasp.

Meanwhile, in this Digital Age we are trying to better understand data is, and how to unlock it, access it, control it, share it, use it, manage it and curate it.

Data can be a value and a means. It can be a value and means at the same time, depending on the perspective of the stakeholder. It can even have numerous values and numerous means at the same time, depending on the multiple perspectives of the relevant stakeholders and other dynamics.

Dynamics in the Digital Age

At an ever-increasing pace, technology is constantly shaping society along with every other sector of our local, regional national, Union and global economies by giving it the impetus needed to accelerate digital transformation and to help address the societal challenges at hand – and to be expected in the mid and longer term -. It also influences our sovereignty, both as individuals, organisations, society, regions, states, alliances, allies and friends, and their respective data.

The technological and related changes are expedited by both non-digital global occurrences such as pandemics and geopolitical developments as well as by increased and ever-converging technical capabilities such as connected devices, platforms, available data, advanced algoritms and software, computing continuum, high-speed networks and low-latency spectrum and the such as, for instance.

These enable connecting, inter-connecting and hyper-connecting billions of individuals, organisations, communities, societies and data, with tens of billions of objects, assets, artifacts, systems and services. In short, digital has become a must-have, for people, society and our ecosystems, within the European Union as well as globally. There are a lot of opportunities to explore, develop and grasp.

Meanwhile, for instance considering one of the essential pieces of this n-dimensional and dynamic puzzle, connecting, inter-connecting and hyper-connecting these persons, personas and organisations with the relevant data, devices, systems and services is not an easy feat. Furthermore, Europe’s digital sovereignty is not growing but has been diminished. So, there a a lot of challenges to address and cater for as well. There is a lot at stake.

Europe Fit for the Digital Decade

‘I want Europe to strive for more by grasping the opportunities from the digital age within safe and ethical boundaries.’ When talking about the Commissions’ mission called ‘A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, President Von der Leyen phrased the importance of the symbiosis between opportunities, risks and ethics [1].

Obviously, that should generally be nothing new to anyone. However, with the technological and other developments as set forth above, those have outtripped our societal, economical and legal frameworks. Connecting, inter-connecting and even hyper-connecting, and creating new data sharing ecosystems – including data spaces – and other combinatoric possibilities and innovations to empower people and organisations, public and private, and guide Europe’s digital transformation also requires each of us to rethink certain notions about risk and ethics.

In line with the EU Fit for the Digital Age mission, the Commission has developed, make public and has started to deliver on the so-called Path to the Digital Decade 2030 [2]. It consists of various strategies, common objectives and targets. Two of the most notable strategies are the EU Data Strategy [3] and Cybersecurity Strategy Decade [4].

The EU Data Strategy is aimed to  meet the requirements to ethically, securely, trustworthy and conveniently control, share, use and otherwise accountably process EU‘s sensitive personal data and non-personal data as well as sensitive business and public sector data sets, by addressing use cases for all sectors of the economy.

Data, and in particular digital data including digital assets make a crucial cornerstone of the 2030 Digital Decade policy programme. Data is established as a common denominator. More generally it is linked to the growing concern that the citizens, businesses, and administrations of the Member States are gradually losing control over their data, their capacity for innovation and technological development, their ability to shape and enforce legislation in the digital environment, and access to hardware and software technologies and capabilities. Support has been growing for a new policy approach designed to enhance Europe’s strategic autonomy in the digital field with the objective of protecting the EU values and human rights and strengthening the position of the EU economy.

Three notable targets of the Digital Decade Policy Programme [5]  related thereto are:

A. 80% of citizens will have access to a digital identity solution.

B. 75% of EU enterprises will use computing services, data or AI.

C. Europe will grow the pipeline of its innovative scale ups and improve access to finance, leading to the number of unicorns doubling.

Said targets are to be met by 2030. The targets are monitored on an annual basis based on the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) that summarises indicators on Europe’s digital performance and tracks the progress of EU Member States. The Commission will review the targets by 2026 to take stock of technological, economic and societal developments. The recent Eurobarometer also demonstrates that these are quite essential: Europeans believe digital technologies will be crucial in their daily lives [6].

Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles

The currently most recommendable, relevant document that both (A) guides each of us in the dimensions of ethics and accountable, and (B) is compact and easy to read as well, however, is the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles of December 2022 [7]. It is even called EU’s digital DNA.

The Declaration builds on key EU values and freedoms and is aimed to benefit all individuals and organisations, where it is also aimed to provide a guide for policymakers and organisations when dealing with new technologies. It focuses on six (6) key areas:

  1. Putting people at the centre of the digital transformation;
  2. Solidarity and inclusion;
  3. Freedom of choice;
  4. Participation in digital life;
  5. Safety and security, and,
  6. Sustainability

Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age summarised it as follows: 

The digital transformation is about ensuring that technologies are safe. That they work in our interests and respect our rights and values. The principles in the declaration of digital rights and principles will continue to be supported by EU legislation.

The Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles as well as the rights and obligations therein are rooted in the Lisbon Treaty and its Charter of Fundamental Rights. It further builds on existing digital policies such as personal data protection, eprivacy, case law of the Court of Justice, and complements the European Pillar of Social Rights. It’s truly people-centric by design by default, and quite essential for the data society and economy within the EU.

Chapter five in the Declaration, titled Safety, Security & Empowerment confirms the rights and obligations to protect the interests of people, including protecting them from identity theft and manipulation, protecting their privacy, giving individual control over data, and ensuring the possibility to easily move data between different digital services.

Delivering on the EU Data Strategy

Project FAME aims to deliver on the Data Strategy, as per said Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles. For that, FAME for once is aiming to design and develop new technology tools for the data marketplace, in particular a federated decentralized trusted data marketplace for embedded finance.

From an ethical perspective, person-centric trusted and secure convenience is a prerequisite, with the user in control of its data, all this provided in an interoperable, inclusive, resilient and trustworthy manner.

To cater for that, the main values and primary principles of the Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles make a lot of sense. However, deploying those and balancing those out (i) in design phase, (ii) pre-procurement phase, (iii) negotiation phase, (iv) implementation phase, (v) operational phase, (vi) in phases of updates, upgrades and continuous improvement, and (vii) before, during and after incidents or (other) accountability events, is complex.

This, also, as these and similar values and principles are qualitative and subjective. The ethical interpretation, design, implementation, and related behaviour, (co-)responsibility and (co-)accountability will load and other substantiate these, and related main values, primary principles and other tiered trust components.

Six (6) initial simple yet key validation queries for finding, balancing, establishing and continuously challenging whether the appropriate symbiosis of values and primary principle in particular situations, use cases or scenarios has been achieved, and the right level of continuous appropriate dynamic accountability [8] has been met and can be demonstrated, are:

  1. What did one consider?
  2. What more did one consider?
  3. How has these been balanced out?
  4. What did or will one implement?
  5. How to continuously improve that?
  6. Can one demonstrate the above?

Throughout each of the various development phases during the FAME project, these queries will be asked, and the answers discussed, challenged, improved and further and further optimised. This, to deliver on the EU Data Strategy.

FAME, November 2023. Blog by Arthur’s Legal, Strategies & Systems

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[1] A Union that strives for more; Political Guidelines for the next European Commission 2019-2024: https://commission.europa.eu/system/files/2020-04/political-guidelines-next-commission_en_0.pdf

[2] The Path to the Digital Decade: https://commission.europa.eu/strategy-and-policy/priorities-2019-2024/europe-fit-digital-age/europes-digital-decade-digital-targets-2030_en#the-path-to-the-digital-decade

[3] European strategy for data: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52020DC0066

[4] Cybersecurity Strategy for the Digital Decade: https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/library/eus-cybersecurity-strategy-digital-decade-0

[5] Digital Decade Targets for 2030: https://commission.europa.eu/strategy-and-policy/priorities-2019-2024/europe-fit-digital-age/europes-digital-decade-digital-targets-2030_en

[6] https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/news/eurobarometer-europeans-believe-digital-technologies-will-be-crucial-their-daily-lives

[7] European Declaration on Digital Rights & Principles, EU’s ‘digital DNA’, signed on 15 December 2022, and in force per January 2023, https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/library/european-declaration-digital-rights-and-principles

[8] The notion of continuous appropriate dynamic accountability is basically the same formula approach as set forth in articles 25 and 32 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).