The EU Data Strategy, published on February 19 2020, identifies four main pillars to address in order to achieve a common European Data Space: a legal framework for data access and use, a technical infrastructure and building blocks, a capacity building programme for skills and competencies, and a rollout in crucial economic sectors and domains of public interest.

The European Commission has set up ambitious milestones to address these four pillars. The first milestone relates to the legislative framework for which the Commission plans to have results ready for the end of 2020. Two consultations have been arranged.

 Legislative framework as key enabler

First, an open consultation on this topic was organised in July 2020.

In the words of the European Commission:

The planned framework would tackle the problems with a cross-sector relevance in four thematic clusters:

  • unlock value from data held by public sector bodies the use of which is conditional on the respect of rights of others,
  • support the use of data that individuals or companies voluntarily contribute to the wider public good,
  • lower the cost of data use through interoperability at the technical level and availability of generic enabling standards and
  • lower transactions costs in data sharing by supporting an emerging offer of data intermediaries, i.e. entities that enable any kind of data holder (persons, business, public sector bodies, academic or not-for profit organisations) to share their data of all types with other organisations, and which may provide additional value-added services.”

This legislative framework is intended to focus both on data held by the public sector and on data produced by companies and individuals.

The vision of the Commission is to support Member States to put in place the processes and bodies needed to handle these four challenges, while leaving room for implementation at the national and domain-specific levels. The data spaces created will then possibly be shared between Member States which will have achieved sufficient progress.

Europe will consider a range of legislative options. These include ‘hard law’ options, applying different degrees of intensity, as well as softer measures (e.g. technical recommendations to Member States and the creation of a European body (or bodies), function(s) or process(es) relevant for all objectives and all sectors).

An implementing act for a first bunch of high value data-sets

Second, the European Commission is organising another consultation, until August 25 2020, on a proposed roadmap which should lead to a specific implementing act on ‘high-value’ datasets.

High-value’ datasets are datasets held by the public sector whose re-use can have major benefits for society and the economy.

The datasets identified for the purpose of this implementing act are related only to certain domains of information: Geospatial, Earth observation and environment, Meteorological, Statistics, Companies and company ownership, and Mobility. The key principles proposed for the act are that the data should be re-usable for free by using application programming interfaces, available in machine-readable format, and downloadable in bulk where possible. The Commission believes that this initiative could be used as a first reference case for complementary datasets or, in the future, for other sectors such as the health sector. This certainly makes reading this high-value dataset information worth the effort for stakeholders involved in health and care.

EHTEL is part of the journey

 In its role as a health-related multi-stakeholder organisation, EHTEL maintains a keen interest in (health) data spaces and the conditions attached to their emergence.

“Getting ready for European Health Data Space(s)” is one the three central themes selected by EHTEL for its “Imagining 2029” initiative which has been running throughout 2020. EHTEL has launched a series of dedicated webinars on this topic.

EHTEL is also contributing to two European projects which aim at identifying a set of referential and generic, functional building blocks for data sharing.