Q&A with: Gaia-X hub NL
The Data Sharing Coalition is an open and growing, international initiative in which a large variety of organisations collaborate to unlock the value of cross-sectoral data sharing. In our recurring blog section ‘Q&A with’, you learn more about our participants, their thoughts, vision and ideas about data sharing. Peter Verkoulen, Program Manager at Gaia-X hub NL, shares his thoughts.
1. Could you introduce your organisation?
Gaia-X is a European initiative that develops a Federated and Secure Data Infrastructure. The international organisation is headquartered in Brussels and there are also 17 national Gaia-X hubs, in 15 European countries, Japan and South-Korea. I am head of the Dutch Gaia-X hub, on behalf of TNO. TNO has been asked by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs to run the hub, in close collaboration with other data sharing and infrastructure initiatives and other relevant companies and organisations, like the Data Sharing Coalition, the Dutch AI Coalition, the Online Trust Coalition and many others.
Gaia-X strives for innovation through digital sovereignty. Our goal is to establish an international ecosystem, in which data is shared and made available in a trustworthy environment. Innovation nowadays often requires using and combining data from different organisations and people. But if the data owner cannot be sure that he retains ownership and control over his data, he will not be willing or able to share that data. An example: consider the group of patients with a pacemaker. Although you probably have an app on your phone to send measurements to your doctor when you do not feel well, it is still “you and your pacemaker”. If we could combine the medical data of all pacemaker users in the country, we could analyse why some of them have a better quality of life than others and give those other people advise, other medication, etc. But as a patient, I will not cooperate if I am not completely sure my data will not be used against me, for example when applying for a mortgage.
Therefore, our intention is that we give back control to the users by making sure they have sovereignty over their data. This means that each user and business can choose where their data is stored, who can use it for what period of time and for what purpose. The result of our work will not be a new cloud (where much of the data ownership is put into the hands of the big tech providers), but a federated system linking many cloud service providers and users together in a transparent data sharing environment. Besides having control over their data, users and businesses can also use the data infrastructure to access data pools and AI applications. Data can be shared across businesses, linked to other data, processed and used to generate value. This stimulates innovation, allows for the usage of synergies and the development of new business models. This will enable inter-organisational usage of data and hence will drive the European data economy of tomorrow.
2. To what extent is your organisation involved in data sharing (within and across sectors)?
To stimulate data sharing and innovation, Gaia-X strives to develop a trustworthy federated data sharing infrastructure. This is done by developing the Gaia-X architecture, which consist of a set of open source software components that can be used to design Gaia-X services and a compliancy framework. A provider of Gaia-X services has to be able to show that this service indeed meets Gaia-X criteria about security, data ownership, etc. More information about Gaia-X can be found here.
The Gaia-X hub NL connects the Dutch ecosystem to the international Gaia-X developments. We do this by bringing the international deliverables to the Dutch market and vice versa: making sure that strengths of Dutch companies and organisations are being used in the international Gaia-X developments. Furthermore, we are adopting and developing use cases. An example is the Smart Connected Supplier Network, where over 300 companies in the manufacturing industry are sharing data. The hub is active in all kinds of data sharing initiatives on a national and international level (especially looking at the international Gaia-X use cases). Currently, we mainly focus on data sharing within sectors, but we are also aiming for cross-sectoral data sharing in the future.
3. Why is or should sharing data be important for your industry or domain?
We are not active in one specific domain. But without sovereignty, people or businesses don’t share their data or do this less often and therefore, there will be less economic value and less innovation. Therefore, we think that sovereign data sharing is essential to achieve economic growth and solve societal issues. I already mentioned the SCSN use case: cost reductions of up to 20% have been achieved by sharing data effectively. Another example is to combine data about unusual financial transactions to fight financial crime.
Achieving an integrated approach to data sharing for the Netherlands requires collaboration between the various national, regional and sectoral data sharing initiatives.
4. What are the most promising data sharing developments and trends you see in your sector?
Data sharing use cases are being worked on in many, many sectors, in different states of maturity, both nationally and internationally. There is a lot of traction both on the “upper part” of the X (concerning data sharing) and the “lower part” (federated cloud infrastructures to support this). There are many data sharing initiatives within the Netherlands on a national, regional and sectoral level, such as Gaia-X and the Data Sharing Coalition, but also for example the data sharing working group of the NLAIC, Connekt (mobility), Health RI (healthcare), SCSN (manufacturing), etc. These are promising developments to stimulate data sharing and innovation. With an initiative like Gaia-X, we can create a link between international use cases and other developments – such as the international Gaia-X and IDSA organisations – but also the regulatory developments taking shape at the level of the European Committee.
5. How do you see the future of data sharing, and what steps are you currently taking in that direction?
Like I said, there are many different initiatives within the Netherlands with their own specific focus which have led to a lot of experiments and (therefore) learnings. However, the Netherlands will now have to enter a new phase in which it really scales up and addresses societal and economic problems. To be able to scale, new initiatives have to build on results of previous work, instead of starting from scratch time and time again. Moreover, scaling requires interoperability and integrated solutions. To achieve all this, a more integrated approach is needed where the main results that have been achieved are used as building blocks, are integrated and combined, and where the various initiatives jointly take next steps (e.g. using the Data Sharing Canvas of the Data Sharing Coalition in all new data sharing initiatives or deploying a Gaia-X compliant federated infrastructure as the basis of a new data sharing initiative). In the end, this could even result in a merger of the various initiatives. The Gaia-X hub NL has started discussions with the main national data sharing initiatives (including of course the Data Sharing Coalition) to work towards this common goal. As mentioned, Gaia-X is a European initiative and thus the Dutch hub is well-positioned to bring the Dutch developments and deliverables to the European (and international) stage and vice versa.
6. Why are you participating in the Data Sharing Coalition?
Cooperation between different data sharing initiatives is essential, which is why the Gaia-X hub NL has become a participant of the Data Sharing Coalition. In addition, the Data Sharing Coalition was also involved in the creation of the hub. Achieving an integrated approach to data sharing for the Netherlands requires collaboration between the various national, regional and sectoral data sharing initiatives and the main stakeholders behind them. This will prevent initiatives from reinventing the wheel. The Data Sharing Coalition is a very relevant player in the Dutch ecosystem, especially focusing on data sharing governance and on cross-sectoral data sharing use cases. This focus is unique. Gaia-X is happy to contribute to the results of the Data Sharing Coalition and to integrate these results within our broader Dutch and international activities. During the next few months, we will have interesting and intensive discussions to elaborate on this potential for bilateral collaboration between different data sharing initiatives.
Do you want to know which organisations are participating in the Data Sharing Coalition? Read more.