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Data has become a key asset for the economy and our societies similar to the classic categories of human and financial resources. Whether it is geographical information, statistics, weather data, research data, transport data, energy consumption data or health data, the need to make sense of ‘big data’ is leading to innovations in technology, development of new tools and new skills.

Big data refers to large amounts of data produced very quickly by a high number of diverse sources. Data can either be created by people or generated by machines, such as sensors gathering climate information, satellite imagery, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, GPS signals, etc. It covers many sectors, from healthcare to transport and energy.

Generating value at the different stages of the data value chain will be at the centre of the future knowledge economy. Good use of data can also bring opportunities to more traditional sectors such as transport, health or manufacturing. Improved analytics and processing of data, especially big data, will make it possible to:

  • transform Europe’s service industries by generating a wide range of innovative information products and services;
  • increase the productivity of all sectors of the economy through improved business intelligence;
  • better address many of the challenges that face our societies;
  • improve research and speed up innovation;
  • achieve cost reductions through more personalised services;
  • increase efficiency in the public sector.

Relevant EU activities

  • The Commission announced a number of initiatives that will make different types of data available for re-use in the Communication ‘Towards a common European data space’ and accompanying Staff Working Document (April 2018).
  • Together with various initiatives in the field of public sector dataresearch data and private sector data, the Commission announced its intention to fund a Support Centre for data sharing under the Connecting Europe Facility. This Support Centre will make it easier to share private sector data by providing best practices and know-how.
  • The Communication ‘Building a European data economy‘ and accompanying Staff Working Document (January 2017).
  • The EU strategy on the data-driven economy (July 2014).
  • Funding research and innovation activities in the fields of ‘Big Data’ and ‘Open Data’.
  • Data technologies standards are considered as one of the five priority areas under the Digitising European industry initiative.
  • The Communication ‘Connectivity for a European gigabit society’ recognises connectivity as an essential enabler of the data economy.
  • The policy on open data and legislation on the re-use of public sector information (Directive 2003/98/EC).

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