Data Governance Act: What’s in it for AI-developing SMEs?

  • On 20 January 2021, DIGITAL SME held a workshop titled “What does the new Data Governance Act mean for SMEs?” for members of the Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence (FG AI) and other invited AI-stakeholders.

  • Malte Beyer-Katzenberger from DG CNECT explained the consequences of the Data Governance Act for innovative, AI-driven SMEs, telling participants that the legislation was designed to “protect your ideas”.

  • Common European data spaces, data intermediaries,  data altruism, and other significant aspects included in the European Commission’s proposal have important consequences on small and medium businesses in the AI sector.

On 20 January 2021, DIGITAL SME held a live workshop titled What does the new Data Governance Act mean for SMEs?” for members of the Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence (FG AI) and DIGITAL SME’s extended networkThe event’s main topic was the Data Governance Act, a proposal for a regulation published by the European Commission last November.

While the workshop shed light on the European Commission’s strategy when it comes to data, important questions remain: What will the Data Governance Act (DGA) mean for small businesses on the ground? Access to data is a key hurdle for companies: How will the DGA and the Commission’s data strategy ensure this access?

The DGA aims to turn Europe into a leading data economy, especially for industrial data. For this purpose, the DGA wants to build a comprehensive European data-sharing framework. The DGA is part of a wider European Data Strategy, which will also include a Data Act, to be announced by the end of 2021. This framework aims to allow businesses and researchers to fully exploit data by lowering transaction costs linked to B2B and C2B data-sharing through data intermediaries. It provides a framework for the re-use of public sector data and promotes the concept of “data altruism”, i.e., allowing data use by individuals or companies for the common good. Finally, the DGA foresees the creation of an expert group, the ‘European Data Innovation Board’.

Malte Beyer-Katzenberger, Policy Officer at the European Commission’s DG CNECT, presented the DGA to an audience of AI-developing SMEs to better understand the EU’s overarching strategy for data. Participants were also able to ask questions about the proposal and bring their critical feedback to the attention of the European Commission.

Creating value and ensuring the availability of data through Common European Data Spaces

Common European data spaces are infrastructures designed to materialise data-sharing platforms: their main leverage will be the possibility of reusing data. The DGA will define an open ecosystem independent from big players in which increased involvement creates more value. Mr Beyer-Katzenberger highlighted that “the European Commission will play the role of catalyser of the relevant actors in these data spaces”, but he added that they will be “driven by the stakeholders that are part of them”.

The DGA also introduces the notion of data intermediaries which will allow companies to recourse to third parties offering and obtaining data-related services. These intermediaries will strengthen businesses sovereignty over their own data as “they will share data while maintaining their control and value”, as Mr Beyer-Katzenberger explained. At the same time, questions remain when it comes to the additional bureaucracy associated with this notion – may it hinder smaller players from developing new business ideas based on the collection of data sets?

Finally, Mr Beyer-Katzenberger elaborated on the concept of “data altruism”, where individuals or companies can give consent to share their data for the common good; voluntarily and free of charge. This can lead to an increase in the amount of data at the disposal of companies who need data to scale up and innovate.

DIGITAL SME will continue to champion SME voices in important digital legislation

A poll conducted during the session indicated that only 60% of participants had heard of the Data Governance Act prior to the workshop. Towards the end of the session, the poll showed that the sentiment regarding the projected effects of the DGA on participants’ businesses was neutral to positive.

DIGITAL SME would like to thank Mr Beyer-Katzenberger for his presentation and all participants for sharing their feedback and questions. We will continue to bring together stakeholders to discuss digital legislation in the field of AI and beyond to make sure it is fit for SMEs.

The governance framework proposed by the DGA can have important consequences for innovative companies in AI or data intelligence services – and DIGITAL SME wants to ensure that the dialogue between the EU-level and the affected SMEs is established from the start.

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Rewatch the event here:

Presentation Slides by Mr Beyer-Katzenberger

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