Data: role and impact on the European economy

With the growing focus on the Internet and the use of mobile devices, where objects communicate with each other using highly sophisticated technologies and a variety of sensors allow us to measure and monitor virtually everything, we are witnessing the generation of an unprecedented amount of data. For example, according to some estimates, in 2022, the global consumer IP data traffic is expected to reach 333 exabytes per month at a 27% CAGR in the period 2017-2022. Data is the lifeblood of the economy and data-driven innovation is a key pillar in 21st century development. The smart use of data can create new opportunities for economic growth, especially for SMEs, enabling the development of artificial intelligence applications, that can help us address various societal challenges, from medical care to the fight against climate change.

THE ROLE OF DATA IN THE HEALTHCARE SECTOR – Healthcare is undoubtedly the sector in which the importance of data is becoming more evident. Today, data with the support of artificial intelligence has the potential to transform many aspects of patient care – ensuring better therapies, developing vaccines, setting tools to react to crisis and emergency situations. Although the Covid-19 experience has revealed the resilience of the Union, it has shown the existing gaps and difficulties in collecting, analysing and sharing data in times of emergency. While the role played by data applications is undeniable, e.g. in matching existing molecules with genomic features of the virus, it is evident that a more effective and quick deployment of tools will be required in the near future. The Commission’s decision to prioritise the creation of the Health Data Space (Q4 2021) over other sectors will be considered in this light.

THE DATA FOR CYBERSECURITY – Moreover, data plays a central role in supporting the decision-making process in cybersecurity issues. However, data should be characterized by high standards of quality and interoperability. For this reason, it is important to develop a legislative framework based on the values of transparency, interoperability and accessibility. The importance of a network for mutual assistance and prevention of cyber-attacks and also the need for an EU cybersecurity certification framework is essential. Consequently, the will to innovate the entire cybersecurity sector has been confirmed by the Commission that will put on the table in mid-December 2020 a new cybersecurity strategy and a proposal for the revision of the NIS Directive.

THE VALUE OF DATA ECONOMY IN EUROPE – Therefore, nowadays, most economic activity depends on the sharing of and the use of data, and in the future this trend will continue to increase with a huge economic impact. According to the IDC European Data Market Monitoring Tool (2020), which measures the overall impact of the Data market on the economy as a whole, the value of the Data Economy exceeded the threshold of € 300 billion in 2019 for the EU-27 with a growth of 7.7% over the previous year. Moreover, according to the baseline scenario, that is considered the most likely, the EU-27 Data Economy will grow faster in the next years, reaching a value of € 550 billion in 2025 at a 9.2% CAGR in the period 2019-2025 with a 4% impact on GDP. The positive trend in the growth of the Data Economy is also confirmed by the Data Market value, that reached € 58 billion in 2019 for the EU-27, up by 5% from 2018, and is expected to amount to approximately € 80 billion in 2025 with a CAGR of 6% in the period 2019-2025.

THE DATA SKILLS GAP – According to the latest estimates, the number of data professionals in the EU-27 amounted to 6 million in 2019, corresponding to 3.3% of the total workforce, with an increase of 6% over the previous year. However, the EDM Monitoring Tool continues to register an imbalance between the demand and the supply of data skills in Europe as the estimated gap showed approximately 399,000 unfilled positions in the EU-27, corresponding to 6.2% of total demand. However, this gap is expected to grow even more, reaching 759,000 units in 2025, 8.2% of total skills demand. Unfortunately, the lack of adequate skills risks becoming an important barrier to development in the data industry and the adoption of data-driven innovation.

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