The volume of data in the world is increasing exponentially. For example, in 2020, 64.2 zettabytes of data were created, a 314 percent increase from 2015. During the last years, the rising demand for information due to the COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to higher than expected growth and future forecasts also show that is will continue. In fact, global data creation is projected to grow to more than 180 zettabytes up to 2025.
Data as a driver of innovation and opportunity for a better society
Nowadays, data is the lifeblood of the economy and a driver of innovation. The data revolution underway – which encompasses the open data movement, the rise of crowdsourcing, new ICTs for data collection, and the explosion in the availability of big data, together with the emergence of artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things – is dramatically changing our society, and the potential appears to be staggering. For example, big data analyses can help our scientists develop better medical diagnostics tools and more precise models to predict climate change and natural disasters.
Today, in the private sector, analysis of big data is commonplace, with consumer profiling, personalised services, and predictive analysis being used for marketing, advertising and management. Similar methods could be adopted to gain real-time insights into people’s wellbeing and to target aid projects for vulnerable groups. According to the United Nations, new sources of data – such as satellite data -, new technologies and analytical approaches, if applied responsibly, can enable more agile, efficient and evidence-based decision-making and better measure progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) more inclusively and fairly.
The economic impact of data in the European Union
We can conclude that most economic activities will depend on data within a few years and already, today, the economic impact will be huge.
According to what emerges from the latest version of the report “European DATA Market Study 2021–2023” prepared by IDC on the initiative of the European Commission and published in February 2023, the value of the data market in the European Union had reached €72,963 million by 2022, a growth of 12.6% over 2021. Among Member States, Germany had the largest share, with a value of € 20,351 million (+13.1% on 2021). France and Italy followed, with a data market value of € 12,300 million (+14%) and € 6,886 million (+12.2%), respectively.
The EU data market is forecasted to reach € 116 billion by 2030. More specifically, the European data market will grow by more than € 20 billion between 2025 and 2030 and amongst the top countries contributing to this growth we find, in addition to Germany, Spain (7.9%) and Italy (5.9%).
The positive trend in the data market growth is also confirmed by the data economy value, that reached the threshold of € 500 billion in 2022 for the EU, an increase of 8.9% over the previous year. Moreover, the share of overall impact on GDP in the EU ranged from 3.7% in 2021 to 3.9% in 2022. The IDC expects that in 2025 the data economy for the EU, will reach € 640 billion, with a share on GDP of 4.8%. Finally, in 2030, the data economy for the EU is expected to remain slightly below the € 1 trillion threshold, with a 5.5% 2025–2030 CAGR and a share on GDP of 5.7%.
Data professional skills gap: an important barrier to the development of data-driven innovation in the European Union
In order to use and exploit the progressively increasing amount of data being produced, data professionals are needed. In 2022, there were more than 7 million data professionals in the EU, with 50% concentrated in three Member States (Germany, France and Italy). However, the lack of adequate skills risks becoming an important barrier to development in the data industry and the adoption of data-driven innovation in the EU. According to the IDC study, the skills gap for data professionals is growing rapidly, and will expand even more in the 2022–2025 period. Therefore, there continues to be an imbalance between the supply and demand of data skills in Europe. In 2022, the skills gap of data professionals was estimated at 368,000 (corresponding to 5% of total demand) and is expected to reach 552,000 by 2030 (5.6% of total demand).
It is therefore important to invest in human capital in all European countries to reap the benefits of the data economy. However, there are Member States that also need to upgrade their infrastructure and improve the use of enabling technologies.
I-Com data economy index to measure member state performance
With the aim of measuring the performance of European countries in the implementation of data driven innovation, the Institute for Competitiveness (I-Com) developed a synthetic index that takes into account some variables related to the data economy in the various Member States. The results of this analysis are reported in the PromethEUs’ Joint Publication on EU Data Strategy of June 2023 and underline that Denmark, with a score of 100, is on the top of the ranking of the countries where the paradigm of data driven innovation is most developed. Sweden, the Netherlands and Finland follow with scores of 91, 91 and 90, respectively. These countries, despite being small in terms of size compared to others, display a good “data ecosystem” and have enterprises that perform particularly well in terms of big data and the use of enabling technologies, such as cloud computing. At the bottom of the ranking, we find Eastern Europe countries (Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary) and Spain, where data driven innovation appears to be still little implemented.