A successful data ecosystem would “bring together data owners, data analytics companies, skilled data professionals, cloud service providers, companies from the user industries, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, research institutes and universities.”(DG Connect, 2013) A successful data ecosystem, which is a prominent feature of the data-driven economy, would see these stakeholders interact seamlessly within a Digital Single Market, leading to business opportunities, easier access to knowledge and capital (European Commission, 2014). “The Commission can contribute to this by bringing the relevant players together and by steering the available financial resources that facilitate collaboration among the various stakeholders in the European data economy” (DG Connect, 2013).
Big data offers tremendous untapped potential value for many sectors, however that there is no coherent data ecosystem in Europe. As Commissioner Kroes explained “The fragmentation concerns sectors, languages, as well as differences in laws and policy practices between EU countries” (European Commission, 2013) (Neelie Kroes, 2013). During the ICT 2013 Conference, Commissioner Kroes called for a European public-private partnership on big data to create a coherent European data ecosystem that stimulates research and innovation around data, as well as the uptake of cross sector, cross-lingual and cross-border data services and products. She also noted the need for ensuring privacy “Mastering big data means mastering privacy too” (Neelie Kroes, 2013). In order for this to occur an interdisciplinary approach is required to create an optimal business environment for big data that will accelerate adoption within Europe.
A Big Data Innovation Ecosystem
In order to drive innovation and competitiveness Europe needs to foster the development and wide adoption of big data technologies, value adding use cases and sustainable business models. While no coherent data ecosystem exists at the European-level (DG Connect, 2013), the benefits of sharing and linking data across domains and industry is becoming obvious. An ecosystem approach allows organisations to create new value that no single organisation could achieve by itself (Adner, 2006). A European Big Data Ecosystem is an important factor for commercialisation and commoditisation of big data services, products and platforms. Within a healthy business ecosystem companies can work together in a complex business web where they can easily exchange and share vital resources (Kim, Lee and Han, 2010). If a Big Data Ecosystem is to emerge in Europe it is important that the different actors within the ecosystem “define a shared vision and jointly identify gaps in the current data landscape” (DG Connect, 2013). A successful big data ecosystem would see all “stakeholders interact seamlessly within a Digital Single Market, leading to business opportunities, easier access to knowledge, and capital” (European Commission, 2014).
The Dimensions of European Big Data Ecosystem
An efficient use and understanding of big data as an economic asset carries great potential for the EU economy and society. The challenges for establishing a Big Data Ecosystem in Europe have been defined into a set of key dimensions (Cavanillas et al., 2014) as illustrated above. Europe must address these multiple challenges (Cavanillas et al., 2014) to foster the development of a big data ecosystem:
- Data: Availability and access to data will be the foundation of any data centric ecosystem. A healthy data ecosystem will consist of a wide spectrum of different data types: structured, unstructured, multi-lingual, machine and sensor generated, static and real-time data. The data in the ecosystem should come from different sectors including Healthcare, Energy, Retail, and from both public and private sources. Value may be generated in many ways, by acquiring data, combining data from different sources and across sectors, providing low latency access, improving data quality, ensuring data integrity, enriching data, extracting insights, and preserving privacy.
- Skills: A critical challenge for Europe will be ensuring the availability of skilled workers in the data ecosystem. An active ecosystem will require data scientists and engineers who have expertise in analytics, statistics, machine learning, data mining, and data management. Technical experts will need to be combined with data savvy business experts with strong domain knowledge and the ability to apply their data know-how within organisations for value creation.
- Legal: Appropriate regulatory environments are needed to facilitate the development of a pan-European big data marketplace. Legal clarity is needed on issues such as data ownership, usage, protection, privacy, security, liability, cybercrime, intellectual property rights, and the implications of insolvencies and bankruptcy.
- Technical: Key technical challenges need to be overcome including large-scale and heterogeneous data acquisition, efficient data storage, massive real-time data processing and data analysis, data curation, advanced data retrieval and visualization, intuitive user interfaces, interoperability and linking data, information, and content. All of these topics need to be advanced to sustain or develop competitive advantages.
- Application: Big data has the potential to transform many sectors and domains including the health, public sector, finance, energy, and transport. Innovative value-driven applications and solutions must be developed, validated and delivered in the big data ecosystems if Europe is to become the world-leader.
- Business: A big data ecosystem can support the transformation of existing business sectors and the development of new start-ups with innovative business models to stimulate growth in employment and economic activity.
- Social: It is critical to increase awareness of the benefits that big data can deliver for business, the public sector, and the citizen. Big data will provide solutions for major societal challenges in Europe, such as improved efficiency in healthcare, increased liveability of cities, enhanced transparency in government, and improved sustainability.
Excerpt from: Curry, E., Cavanillas, J. M. and Wahlster, W. (2016) ‘The Big Data Value Opportunity’, in Cavanillas, J. M., Curry, E., and Wahlster, W. (eds) New Horizons for a Data-Driven Economy: A Roadmap for Usage and Exploitation of Big Data in Europe. Springer International Publishing. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-21569-3_1.
- Adner, R. (2006) ‘Match your innovation strategy to your innovation ecosystem’, Harvard Business Review, 84(4), pp. 98–107.
- Cavanillas, J. et al. (2014) ‘Framing a European Partnership for a Big Data Value Ecosystem’, ‘BIG and NESSI Report’.
- DG Connect (2013) A European strategy on the data value chain. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/newsroom/cf/dae/document.cfm?doc_id=3488.
- European Commission (2013) ‘Digital Agenda for Europe, Session Reports, ICT for Industrial Leadership : Innovating by exploiting big and open data and digital content’.
- European Commission (2014) Towards a thriving data-driven economy, Communication from the commission to the European Parliament, the council, the European economic and social Committee and the committee of the regions. Brussels. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/news/communication-data-driven-economy.
- Kim, H., Lee, J.-N. and Han, J. (2010) ‘The role of IT in business ecosystems’, Communications of the ACM, 53(5), p. 151. doi: 10.1145/1735223.1735260.
- Neelie Kroes (2013) ‘Big data for Europe – ICT 2013 Event – Session on Innovating by exploiting big and open data and digital content’, p. Vilnius.