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White paper: Guidance for successful data space deployment

Published 16 April 2024

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This article was placed on: CoE-DSC

Parties interested in deploying a data space need to use the right technologies and need to make sure they get the business and governance of the data space right. This is easier said than done, because there is relatively little guidance on how to deploy a data space successfully. What guidance can be given? On behalf of the CoE-DSC, a white paper has been written about this topic. We spoke with Gijs van Houwelingen, researcher collaborative business models at TNO, also involved in the CoE-DSC and one of the authors of a white paper.

Download the white paper

Why write this white paper?

“One of TNO’s interests is business and governance,” Gijs explains. “In addition to the fact that it’s a topic of interest, we received a lot of questions from the agricultural sector in particular, who were working on a farm-to-fork project to reduce food waste. Here, we saw – and we are now seeing this more broadly in the market – setting up the hard infrastructure is to some extent the easier part. Technically, it is almost always possible and there are certain standards. But the soft infrastructure, concerning business models and governance, is less tangible and thus less easy to describe clearly.” According to Gijs, this can be a reason why data sharing initiatives don’t reach their full potential. “Little has been written about that soft, more human side. People don’t know how to deal with questions like: ‘How do you build trust?’, ‘Are you willing to cooperate with other parties?’, ‘What does that require?’, ‘How will you share data, and what data?’ That is why we wanted to combine the best practices of this soft side in a white paper.”

Gijs continues: “There is an incredible amount of data that is not yet unlocked, even though there is enormous value to be generated. But sharing data sovereignly comes with extra challenges from a data governance perspective. Big tech companies can offer plug and play solutions, at the expense of data sovereignty. The importance and advantage of data spaces is that you are sharing data with data sovereignty, so you have control over your data.”

Challenges when developing data spaces

When developing data spaces, Gijs sees that “initiatives are not always well aligned, so there is still a step to take in terms of standardisation, interoperability and harmonisation. For example, the DSSC blueprint and the IDSA component certification help improve this, and it is one of the aspects that the CoE-DSC highlights to others. By sharing best practices in our white paper, we also hope to accelerate this development.”

According to Gijs, another important reason why not all data space projects are successful is because people don’t always have the application or proposition in mind. “Data sharing offers value only when data applications are developed that help solve specific problems. Sometimes the attitude is: sharing data is important for the data economy, so we have to share data. But what is the proposition? Why do you want to share this data, what value does it offer the end user? You have to think about that up front. When you unlock data, you get insights. But what are customers going to use those insights for? That’s the question you need to ask. I see that data spaces that are operational have a very good idea of why they share that particular data with each other.”

Trust is also an important aspect. “Especially in the private sector, because you often have to collaborate with competitors, which requires a lot of trust. Fear of losing one’s own data sometimes leads to not having the right parties involved.” Continuing on this thought, it is important to have the right people at the table at different stages. Gijs advises to start talking to a business audience and afterwards involve a technical audience. “Begin by defining applications you want to support or problems you want to solve and propose business models that match. To do this, you need business people who understand what change is needed within the organisation to implement this. Then, you can invite technical people who work on the implementation. The communication between business and technology needs to be well organised, so technical people understand why you are setting up this initiative.”

Looking at the future of Dutch data spaces

When asked which cross sector collaborations will have the most impact, Gijs sees big opportunities for data sharing and data spaces for the energy transition and for CO2 reporting. “To take a step forward in the energy transition, the built environment, energy and mobility need to work together. For example, think about charging station infrastructure: where do you put charging stations? To answer this question, you need to know: where are a lot of electric cars? At which location does that fit into the energy grid? Where can we put it without getting traffic jams on certain roads?” Gijs also sees opportunities for sustainability in general, for example CO2 reporting. “Europe is emphasising energy impact reporting. Big companies have to report on this, which will also have an impact on smaller parties in their supply chain, because they need their data.”

According to Gijs, it is clear that data sharing and data spaces can have a great impact. How is the Netherlands doing in this respect? “In the Netherlands we have many data space initiatives, but a challenge is to collaborate at the European level. Europe focusses on Europe-wide data spaces. These are federations, so not their own data spaces. We have to think about making these different federations interoperable. My perception is that we need to look more at what is happening around us. Within the CoE-DSC, we are working on a roadmap to improve interoperability, both cross sector and cross border. I think that is the next step.”

Do you want to learn more about the critical success factors for the implementation of data spaces?

Download the white paper

Het bericht White paper: Guidance for successful data space deployment verscheen eerst op Centre of Excellence for Data Sharing & Cloud.

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