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Team Data Spaces | Blog

‘Soft’ Infrastructure Lies at the Heart of Every Data Space, Enabling Control Over Data

September 14, 2021


Mariane ter Veen

Matiane ter Veen is director, data sharing lead at consulting firm INNOPAY.

About Team Data Spaces

Team Data Spaces is a coalition of leading European players with experience in standardizing, creating and operationalizing data sharing.

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In order for data to be gathered, made available and shared easily and transparently within national and international ecosystems of organizations or sectors, it is necessary to create trust-based ecosystems of data, so-called ‘Data Spaces’. The European Commission believes Data Spaces offer enormous potential if they are implemented on the basis of data sovereignty. It has laid the groundwork for Data Spaces in the European data strategy.

The aim is to strengthen Europe’s global competitiveness by ensuring that more data becomes available for use in the economy and society while giving companies and individuals full control over the data they generate (‘data sovereignty’). Establishing data sovereignty requires the creation of a digital ‘soft’ infrastructure for data sharing, for all Data Spaces, all industries and all geographies. It is the data equivalent of GSM or hard infrastructures.

When the EU introduced the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) in the 1980s, it redefined the global telecom industry. This decentralized paradigm with requirements relating to the use of standards, governance and adherence obligations spurred the development of a worldwide ecosystem of telecom providers without compromising on end-user service in terms of reach and data portability.  Nowadays, it is possible for users to change providers without losing their data (i.e. their personal mobile number). This is a real-life example of data sovereignty before the term had even been coined.

The framework of standardized requirements or agreements is called a digital ‘soft’ infrastructure – ‘soft’ because it is not visible or tangible and ‘infrastructure’ because it is very robust, powerful and built on convention and adherence. 

Leverage the benefits of ‘soft’ infrastructure in the data domain

Creating an equivalent set of requirements or ‘soft’ infrastructure in the data domain will have a similar effect on the data economy.

This ‘soft’ infrastructure will form the basis for control and enable sound data-sharing, just as hard infrastructure (such as waterways, roads, railways, sewers and the electricity grid) has been the foundation of health, wealth and economic growth since the time of early civilizations. In other words, a ‘soft’ infrastructure in the data domain will truly unlock the full potential of data, enabling it to flow freely and establishing a firm basis for a thriving human-centric data economy.


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Everything is becoming a transaction

As the digital transformation accelerates, every interaction is becoming a transaction and new kinds of value – such as personal data, access rights, obligations, attention and reputation – form the basis of new business models. A ‘soft’ infrastructure provides the much-needed ‘trust’ in a world where everything is becoming a transaction.

INNOPAY has joined forces with ‘Team Data Spaces’ to facilitate the development of ‘soft’ infrastructure that is at the heart of every Data Space. We have done so because we believe it is only with trust – full confidence that the system will work reliably, truthfully and safely – that it will be possible to reap the full potential of the digital transactions era.

We have a long track record in this field and are currently involved in various initiatives related to the creation of trust frameworks – or ‘afsprakenstelsels’ – to enable data-sharing and thereby create Data Spaces.

Mariane ter Veen is director, data sharing lead at consulting firm INNOPAY. She helps organizations to fully embrace the opportunities of the digital transactions era by adopting a more open outlook, collaborating across ecosystems and creating new value. She believes in a world where trusted data exchange is the key to unlocking new business models and reducing costs. As an enabler of this, she is a strong advocate of data sovereignty, which gives people and organizations control over their data.

Mariane has a wealth of experience in the domain of data sharing, both in public/private partnerships as well as helping individual organizations, and recently spearheaded the development of the iSHARE logistics data-sharing scheme.