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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Speech by Commissioner Mariya Gabriel in charge of Digital Economy and Society

Tallinn, 17 July 2017

Digital Single Market Conference on the Free Movement of Data.

Prime Minister, Minister,

Ladies and gentlemen.

I am delighted to be here in Tallinn and honoured to be able to address you at this Digital Single Market Conference on the free movement of data.

This is also one of my first public events since becoming Digital Commissioner, and I am happy that it is to discuss with you this important issue.

Data lies at the core of the 4th Industrial Revolution. This is an essential resource for economic growth, competitiveness, innovation, creation and society's progress in general.

The European Data Economy is now truly taking off. The value of the EU data economy was EUR 300 billion in 2016, representing 1.99 % of GDP. In 2016, there were 254.000 data companies, 661.000 data user companies and 6.16 million data professionals employed.

If the right policy and legislative framework conditions are put in place in time, the value of the data economy can increase to EUR 739 billion by 2020 representing 4 % of the overall EU GDP. By 2020, the number of data companies can also increase to 359.000, the number of data user companies can increase to 724.000 and the number of employed data professionals can increase to 10.43 million.

And it is not only the economy that can benefit from data. Through an advanced use of data, we can address societal challenges.

For example, in healthcare the analysis of large datasets can help develop new drugs and treatments and patients can benefit from more timely and helpful care.

In agriculture, smart use of big data from sensors and earth observations can increase productivity, food security and farmer incomes at the same time.

On January 10th the European Commission presented the last major Digital Single Market (DSM) initiative on 'Building the European Data Economy', which addresses, firstly, restrictions on the free flow of data, including legal barriers on the location of data for storage and processing purposes.

It has become vitally important for the realisation of the digital single market in Europe to ensure the free movement of data.

The removal of data localisation restrictions could generate by itself up to EUR 8 billion per year. It would also encourage a more efficient use of IT resources that could contribute to the reduction of energy consumption and carbon emissions by a net 30% or more.

I am glad to say that the free movement of data is one of the priorities of the Estonian Presidency and that Estonia is a strong supporter of removing data localisation restrictions in the European Union.

To create the right conditions for the European Data Economy to flourish, we also need to look into aspects such as data ownership, data transfer, data availability and liability issues and into improving portability of data. For example, who owns data, where responsibility should lie if an automated device makes the wrong choice, how can a company easily switch its data between cloud service providers without facing high costs and entry barrier for innovative ideas?

The Commission announced that it will deliver an initiative on accessibility and re-use of public and publicly funded data by spring 2018 and review the Directive on the re-use of Public Sector Information (PSI).

Beyond publicly funded data and data of public interest, a culture of data sharing also needs to be encouraged in B2B contexts. Data can be used and shared by many players at the same time, which opens up almost infinite possibilities of building new products or services or to improve processes.

A well-established European Data Economy is a priority. A strong framework providing for certainty will not only promote and enable data flows and data sharing, but also be beneficial to our international relations and international business partners.

The Commission will continue supporting an open approach that ensures that the most innovative services provided globally are available in the EU, while ensuring the respect of European rules. This entails protecting individuals' privacy, as well as and strategic corporate assets, know-how, and intellectual and industrial property.

In order to achieve the plans announced in the DSM mid-term review, the Commission will need further support of the Council and the Parliament.

Today we will be inspired by interesting speakers coming from many different angles in society and economy. I look forward to working together with all of you, to realise a free flow of data in the European Union and to further develop the European Data Economy.



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