B2G data sharing is a collaboration in which a company or other private organisation makes available its data (or insights) to the public sector (local, regional, national or EU) for a public interest purpose. This collaboration should take place in a secure, privacy-preserving, sustainable and ethical way. Data on traffic flows can give insights into mobility challenges as well as the economic development of cities, for example. Data from retailers, such as supermarkets, can help official statistical institutes establish a more accurate and comprehensive price index in a more efficient way. Data from sensors in cities can provide insights to predict tourist inflows or estimate pollution, and exchanges of data on transportation and cargo can ensure near-frictionless border control.
B2G data sharing has an enormous potential to help resolve many societal challenges, ranging from climate change through education and urban planning to the production of more accurate official statistics. It can help move to an evidence-driven model for policymaking, leading to better, more cost-efficient, fair and inclusive decisions. Leveraging private sector data also has an important role to play in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals and meeting the EU’s commitment to become the world’s first climate neutral continent by 2050.
Every day, the private sector produces a wealth of data in order to manufacture all sorts of goods, offer a wide range of services and make sure their businesses run smoothly. Certain types of data, such as behavioural data (e.g. mobile phone records, GPS location or social media data), are largely in the hands of the private sector. This private sector data can be crucial to better understand population movements, lifestyle changes, disease patterns and habits, for example, and, therefore, help the public sector in resolving societal challenges and contributing to general wellbeing.
Furthermore, the private sector intensively uses public infrastructures (e.g. private vehicles on public roads and railways). The public sector could benefit from private sector data on such public infrastructure use in order to improve public investment planning and management.
The value of data as an asset is not yet fully recognised, and public bodies frequently lack the know-how to identify valuable datasets as well as the capacity to process them. In addition, there are currently not enough incentives for businesses to share data with the public sector for the common good. There are also a number of other barriers, including a lack of professionals in the field, differences in legalisation between Member States, trust and security issues, ethical questions and the limited interoperability of datasets, amongst others. As a result, B2G data sharing can be a lengthy, uncertain process.
The EU can help stimulate B2G data sharing by creating a common framework and by supporting activities that help overcome the barriers. As regards the framework, the EU could explore the creation of an EU legal framework to enable the development of fast, responsible and sustainable B2G data sharing. It could also help put in place the technical infrastructure to share data as well as ethical guidelines. As regards funding, the EU could for example support pilot B2G data-sharing partnerships in sandboxes for specific societal challenges. The EU could also help increase awareness on the potential of B2G data sharing and on the missed opportunity for Europe of not sharing data.
Key areas in which B2G data sharing can have a large impact include making health services more efficient and improving diagnosis, reacting faster in emergencies and natural or humanitarian disasters, enabling data access to public research institutes for the development of ethical artificial intelligence services, saving energy for a more sustainable society, improving mobility and creating smarter cities. Citizens – who produce valuable data and are the ultimate beneficiaries of B2G data sharing – should be involved in the choice of societal challenges that should be addressed through B2G data-sharing collaborations.
Huge amounts of data are produced every day by our smart phones and other connected devices, for example social media, digital transactions, GPS devices and other sensors. This data can reveal information that is critical to understanding patterns of societal behaviour and activities. In turn, these insights ultimately allow both the private and public sectors to take better decisions. For example, through mobile operator data, urgent evacuation operations can be organised more efficiently and those that remain in the affected area can be better assisted.
In certain cases, the public sector has access to the data itself, for example via data-sharing platforms (including application programming interfaces). In others, the public sector body does not access the data itself, but can still benefit from insights through performing queries on a database (held by the business or a trusted third party).
Companies can benefit from B2G data-sharing partnerships in various ways. Firstly, the company may benefit itself from the insights created through the data-sharing collaboration. Furthermore, the company’s data is not necessarily shared for free but may be against a fair compensation. In addition, contributing to the common good can be part of a company’s corporate social responsibility programme, and may be beneficial to its reputation. Other motivations include tax incentives, improved government services or public-recognition programmes to enhance a company’s reputation.