In July, the European Commission (‘Commission’) published a communication titled “Towards a thriving data-driven economy” (‘Communication’), setting out the conditions that it believes are needed to establish a single market for big data and cloud computing. The Communication recognizes that the current legal environment is overly complex, creating “entry barriers to SMEs and [stifling] innovation.” In a press statement, the Commission also called for governments to “embrace the potential of Big Data.”

The Communication follows the European Council’s conclusions of 2013, which identified the digital economy, innovation and services as potential growth areas. The Commission recognizes that for “a new industrial revolution driven by digital data, computation and automation,” the EU needs a data-friendly legal framework and improved infrastructure.

Citing statistics about the amount of data being generated worldwide, the Commission believes that reform of EU data-protection laws and the adoption of Network and Information Security Directive will ensure a “high level of trust fundamental for a thriving data-driven economy.” To this end, the Commission seeks a rapid conclusion to the legislative process.

The Commission’s vision of a data-driven economy is founded on the availability of reliable and interoperable datasets and enabling infrastructure, facilitating value and using Big Data over a range of applications.

To achieve a data-driven economy, coordination among Member States and the EU is necessary. The key framework conditions are digital entrepreneurship, open data incubators, developing a skills base, a data market monitoring tool and the identification of sectorial priorities, and ensuring the availability of infrastructure for a data-driven economy, along with addressing regulatory issues relating to consumer and data protection, including data-mining and security.

In an atmosphere of increasingly complex regulation anticipated by the Draft Data Protection Regulation and rulings of Europe’s senior courts, a positive slant on the use of data should be refreshing to organisations that depend on it in their operations. The test for the recommendations will be in how the Commission and the EU seek to implement them.