What are the key building blocks of different data-sharing ecosystems?
"The common European mobility data space is not an ocean of data; it is about creating a network of networks enabling relevant, although not always open, access to various already existing data sources" argues Katri Valkokari, Research Manager at VTT Foresight and Data Economy, in her recent opinion piece which draws on the discussions of the 10th Florence Intermodal Forum.
This article by Katri Valkokari, Research Manager at VTT Foresight and Data Economy, originally appeared in the European Transport Regulation Observer “Creating a common European mobility data space” (February, 2023).
The rise of the data economy has led to a variety of concepts, that enable data flows, such as data marketplaces, data platforms and data spaces. Digitalisation is transforming products and services into networked systems. This transformation is impacting all companies, their value chains and other stakeholders. As products and services are increasingly integrated into interconnected, data-intensive systems, data is increasingly at the core of the competitive advantage of companies across industries. At the same time, the hype around data is tempting actors to protect their data rather than share it, thereby hindering the growth of data-intensive businesses. In any case, data-intensive environments are in constant change. Creating value in such environments requires complementary perspectives and dynamic strategies. Thus, there are some key building blocks that can enable the emergence of data-sharing ecosystems.
First, the value of data must be understood from the perspective of a variety of actors. The business logics inside different application areas – from global logistics to local mobility chains – are different, which has led to fragmentation and different standards within application areas. Although standardisation of the technical building blocks could drive the development, the data sharing and governance rules need to be aligned with the actors’ current and future business models. In addition, although companies acknowledge the potential value of data and even consider it as a treasure, they are not often in a position to exploit this potential. Identifying mechanisms for creating value, implementing changes and extracting value is complex. Addressing this complexity requires multiple lenses, i.e., technology, people, business and society. This is the key to navigating the complexity and ambiguity of the internal and external business environments.
Second, when we dive deeper into one application area and the current value chain at the core, we should understand that the roles in the core value chain and the data (sharing) value chain are likely to be different. There are a variety of end users within the data-sharing ecosystem and typically, all actors in the value chain are both users and owners of data, leading to changes in the relationships between actors. To figure out the future roles of actors and the development paths within data-sharing ecosystems, this should be understood. When it comes to developing new businesses, often cross-sectoral collaboration is required, and in this area, the support of public actors is needed to enable interoperability. The primary question is, then, who makes the rules of the game. The rules of game are set at multiple levels from policies to business ecosystems and technology standards. Coordination – or even transparency – between these levels is crucial. In this context, it is important to note, that business actors of current value chains often emphasise the need to federate existing models rather than to create new ones. Therefore, integrating existing pieces is as important as building new ones.
Third, the discussions at the 10th Florence Intermodal Forum in November 2022 have shown that there are different conceptualisations of data space and a variety – over 30 – of ongoing initiatives. They often include their own solutions for data governance, architecture, harmonisation, and divergent definitions. As a result, it is difficult to obtain a clear picture of the various developments. This even applies to the experts, who are familiar with the different initiatives. It is important to understand that it is difficult for actors whose main focus is on day-to-day business operations to follow the discussion and quickly take advantage of these opportunities. SMEs, in particular, have limited resources to keep up with the developments and further implement novel roles. Therefore, it is important for intermediators to share success stories as well as lessons learnt. For this reason, stakeholder networking, such as the event organised by FSR Transport, is an important enabler. This is because networks foster dialogue between the different stakeholders and create links between the different initiatives related to mobility data spaces.
In summary, it is important to emphasise, that data spaces are not only about technical aspects but also about collaboration between different actors who have different expectations, interests and capabilities. Future solutions need to be 1) end user-proofed and provide a working connection to personal data spaces and fair use of personal data; 2) business-proofed and enable a well-functioning data-sharing ecosystems with unique and transparent objectives, as well as 3) policy-proofed and allow cross-sectoral local, regional and European policies with social goals and missions. The common European mobility data space is not an ocean of data; it is about creating a network of networks enabling relevant, although not always open, access to various already existing data sources.