BRUSSELS—Data innovation is a significant and growing part of Europe’s economy, but EU member states are not equally poised to benefit, according to a comprehensive analysis released today by the Center for Data Innovation. The Center, a data-policy think tank, recommends that European policymakers encourage data-driven innovation by maximizing the supply of reusable data, improving infrastructure that supports data innovation, and developing data science and data literacy skills among workers.
“Supporting data innovation can help countries grow their domestic economies, improve the lives of their citizens, and maximize their competitive advantage in Europe and internationally,” said Daniel Castro, director of the Center and co-author of the report. “But countries need strong national leadership and the right public policies to realize the full benefits of data innovation.”
The Center’s analysis assesses countries’ relative strength in 31 indicators covering three categories of assets critical to encouraging and enabling data-driven innovation:
- Data: The availability of useable data and the effectiveness of government policies in promoting the supply and reuse of data. This includes the size of the national data economy, data sharing in health care, the extent and impact of open data policies, and the robustness of freedom of information laws.
- Technology: The availability and use of key digital infrastructure, such as the Internet of Things, e-government, and high-speed broadband.
- People and Firms: The use of data-driven technologies in the workplace, the prevalence of digital skills, and the role of education and civil society in developing such skills.
The top five countries in the EU are Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK.
While the top five countries have a GDP per capita above the EU average, income is not a guarantee of strong performance in data innovation. Instead, the report finds that effective national leadership and public policy are important factors in data innovation performance.
The five lowest-ranking countries in the EU are Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Cyprus.
While each country has a GDP per capita below the EU average, the bottom five also exhibit some of the highest levels of corruption in the EU. There is a strong inverse correlation of 0.88 between corruption levels and the final score.
The report concludes with recommendations for how policymakers can improve their countries’ performance in data innovation. According to the report, governments should prioritize three goals:
- Maximize the supply of reusable data. Governments should both avoid laws and regulations that stifle the supply and flow of data, such as overly burdensome data protection rules and data localization policies in different member states, and increase the supply of data, such as via open data and freedom of information policies.
- Improve infrastructure that supports data innovation. Governments should encourage the development of key technological platforms that enable data innovation, such as broadband, digital public services, smart meters, and smart cities.
- Develop data science and data literacy skills in workers. Governments should encourage the development of data-related skills through the education system and through professional training programs.
“Embracing data innovation will help member states respond to many social and economic challenges in the years ahead,” said Nick Wallace, a senior policy analyst with the Center and co-author of the report. “By putting the right policies in place and investing in the data economy, the member states that struggle economically today could become the leaders of tomorrow.”
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