Making the fair data economy a reality

Guest blog by Markus Kalliola from the Finnish Innovation Fund, Sitra


We are at a tipping point, where different movements focusing on digital rights and the human-centric internet need to be considered seriously in sustainable digital businesses. We are moving from enlightenment to execution, when most transparent organizations will hopefully win the race. Both the European Commission with the Next Generation Internet initiative and Sitra, with its fair data economy initiative, are both working to make that happen.

Sitra is a future fund that collaborates with partners from different sectors to research, trial and implement bold new ideas that shape the future. For the past 50 years, we have done so mainly by renewing the Finnish society from within. However, major global challenges such as ethical utilization of data require bold new visions and experimentation across sectoral and national borders. This is the reason Sitra has gained more international influence over the past years.

Markus Kalliola, Photo: Miikka Pirinen / Sitra

The IHAN initiative

At the beginning of 2018, encouraged by the applicability of the general data protection regulation (GDPR), Sitra kicked off an initiative that is now known as IHAN. Our aim is to build the foundation for a fair and functioning data economy. Very shortly put, this means that individuals will get to control their personal data in a seamless and easy way. Plus organizations that want to provide services to individuals need to make them available fairly and transparently. The main objectives are to create a method for data exchange and to set up European-level rules and guidelines for the fair use of data. We believe these should be based on European values and above all trust.

If you wish to hear the “long version”, today (10 April, 2019) Sitra, together with the Lisbon Council,  published a policy brief about the fair data economy. After reading that you will look to the future with a different mindset. The policy brief will be discussed in an event in Helsinki on 8 May and you are welcome to come and discuss it with us or follow the event online via live stream.

Working together: MyData, Sitra & the NGI Forum

We acknowledge the great ambition of the goals we have set for ourselves and we understand that alone we cannot make fair data economy a reality in Europe. Finding partners and working together for common goals has defined the first year of our project. The MyData movement is one of those partners. Last year Sitra became the main sponsor of the MyData conference and this year we continue in that role. In fact, the project director of IHAN, Jaana Sinipuro, sits in the steering group of the newly founded MyData Global association. To drive further synergies, this year’s NGI Forum will be co-located with the MyData conference in Helskini, Finland on 25 September, 2019.

Rules and guidelines on the other hand are being shaped with multiple organizations and for the technical part, we are working with European standardization organization CEN. And on the ethical side we look towards IEEE, which is creating ethical guidelines for autonomous and intelligent systems. Sitra has also partnered with other think tanks in Europe. At the beginning of April, eight European think tanks and special guests met to discuss the fair data economy in Helsinki.

Join the data revolution

Are you our next partner in building the fair data economy? We welcome individuals and organizations to join the data revolution. If you are interested, please contact us. But I specially want to highlight one opportunity. Next fall we will start an accelerator program for companies  interested in creating services in an innovative and fair manner using the IHAN concept.

We are confident in showing that the fair data economy is not just wishful thinking. To show how it works, we published an open call for funding last year. We received close to 40 applications from all over Europe. The chosen ones have started to build services and the first one helps to share diabetes data. We are very much looking forward to publishing the rest of the pilots soon.

Beside being the front runner in visionary regulation towards fair data economy, the EU and the European Commission have created many initiatives to make Europe a breeding ground for the future data economy. The Next Generation Internet initiative is one of the most interesting of them. We share the same values and goals with Next Generation Internet (read the NGI blog on Sitra’s site here). Sitra and its IHAN team will also be present at the NGI Forum 2019 next September in Helsinki.

Working together

Finally, economic growth in Europe will be one of the key themes during the Finnish EU presidency. Digitalization and data economy are the main drivers behind that. Sitra is actively supporting multiple events during the presidency where data economy is being discussed for example the ICT Proposers’ day in September. If you want to hear more what we are doing in the IHAN project, please don’t hesitate to contact us, or schedule a bilateral meeting during the NGI forum or MyData 2019 which takes place in the days after the NGI Forum 2019.