Breaking data monopolies

At a glance

Globally, the digital economy is growing at a rapid pace. In Africa alone, tech startups grew 10-fold between 2014 and 2019.
As a result, a data economy has developed in recent years whose commodity is primarily personal data: Sales platforms, smart home appliances, fitness trackers or navigation apps generate valuable user profiles in real time. The value creation of these data streams has so far mostly been in the hands of large tech companies. Developing countries are thus currently only able to benefit from the data economy to a limited extent.
In the future, however, political self-determination and further development potential will increasingly depend on the ability to put value to the data obtained locally.
In addition to data expertise and local data centers, this requires above all solidly implemented and harmonized data protection regulations across countries, which are often inadequate in our partner countries.

In February 2022, the EU Commission presented a draft for a new data law (Data Act), the most important measure to date from the EU data strategy after the GDPR. The Data Act is intended to regulate access to data and the sharing of data both between different players in the data economy and the state. The Data Act can fundamentally change the current data economy and is intended to address various problems. On the one hand, most data remains unused or is mainly in the hands of a relatively small number of large companies; on the other hand, low trust, conflicting economic incentives, and technological barriers inhibit the development of a European data economy.

The Data Act aims to provide a cross-sector governance framework for data access and use.

The goal is to equitably distribute the information gained from data among data economy stakeholders, ensure fair access to data, and promote data use.

This is to be achieved by

  • simplifying data access and use for consumers and businesses, while at the same time
  • simplifying data access and use for consumers and businesses, while maintaining incentives for investment in data value creation
  • allowing public agencies to use data held by companies when certain situations, such as pandemics, create an extraordinary need
  • facilitate the transition between cloud and edge services
  • safeguards are put in place to prevent unlawful data transfers without notification by cloud service providers Standards are developed for the efficient sharing of data that can be reused by other sectors

The Data Act will directly impact the European Gaia-X project in particular, which is strongly driven by Germany. The Data Act is characterized by the political goal of enabling a “level playing field” in Europe. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are therefore to be exempted from certain requirements or given special support. On the other hand, further data concentration in large tech companies is to be made more difficult.

Our approach and goal

Our Data Economy Flagship promotes the development of a data-driven economy by advancing the implementation of data regulation and testing the sharing of data to drive local innovation to support local value creation. In collaboration with the Smart Africa Secretariat, national regulators, and the private sector, the project has three objectives: