Welcoming speech from Commissioner Gabriel at BDV Meet-up Sofia 2018


Dear organisers of today’s forum, Dear participants, I am very happy to welcome you on behalf of the European Commission and to congratulate you on the occasion of this wide-ranging forum, dedicated to the key role of big data in our present and fu...

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Dear organisers of today’s forum,
Dear participants,

I am very happy to welcome you on behalf of the European Commission and to congratulate you on the occasion of this wide-ranging forum, dedicated to the key role of big data in our present and future. I sincerely regret that other, previous commitments prevent me from being with you now, but I am glad to have the opportunity to share some thoughts on the subject through this video message: an opportunity afforded to us by new technologies that allow us to communicate at a distance of hundreds of kilometres.

But when we talk about new technologies, the theme of today’s conference comes to the fore – big data. For its part, the topic of big data poses the question: how can we respond the challenge posed by the growing volumes of big data, which increase by the day? This question has been at the centre of my work for the past few months in the lead-up to 25 April, when I presented the European Commission’s proposal concerning artificial intelligence. The development of this leading-edge technology provides us with a tool that can assist us in processing big data while strictly adhering to ethical and legal principles.

Our ambitious proposal is that the public and private sectors in the European Union strive towards increasing investment in scientific research and innovation in the field of artificial intelligence, and together achieve more than EUR 20 billion in investment by the end of 2020. But we will need to do more. Our ambition is to reach that level on an annual basis in the period from 2021 to 2027. In addition, we are creating a European Alliance on Artificial Intelligence, which will bring together a wide circle of representatives from the academic community, industry and civil society, in order to discuss the future of the sector. The Alliance will discuss and propose guidelines for the ethical development and use of artificial intelligence. I will be delighted if participants in today’s conference become part of this Alliance.

Joint work is the key to successful solutions based on the leading role of big data as the driving force behind the growth of the digital economy. Throughout the process, the European Commission wishes to have guarantees of high data protection standards, so that citizens can trust those applications of artificial intelligence that make use of personal data. The General Data Protection Regulation, which will soon come into force, is a big step forward. Our second aim is the guaranteeing of access at the lowest possible price to high-quality data, paid for through public contributions. For this purpose, we proposed extending the scope of the Directive to cover information from the public sector. In third place, last but not least, we wish to ensure support for access to data and their transfer between companies by establishing principles and guidelines on the corresponding agreements and technologies.

Allow me to dwell a little on this third point, as it is often considered of secondary importance, perhaps because it does not concern legislation. However, practical challenges can also hamper the sharing and use of data, not only challenges in the field of law! For this reason, we have also proposed practical principles for the sharing of data from business to business. I believe that data sharing must be based on transparency, respect for the interests of both parties, shared values, and fair competition.

These principles are supported by specific guidelines.

One important aspect concerns formats. Ideally, both data and meta-data, such as licensing information, should be entered in universally useable, machine-readable and structured formats. Therefore, data sharing should build on the many existing standards on the format of data and meta-data, or parties should work together to define new standards, in order to take account of new technological developments. A simple but crucial way for this to happen is through use of the Application Program Interface. It allows the process of data sharing to be more or less automated, which helps to reduce costs. In this way, entire ecosystems can be built of providers and users of data. This will be of great benefit for the future of the European digital economy. Thus, all important projects in our public-private partnership for large volumes of data have my strong support.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today’s conference also allows us to put a number of questions. What still needs to be done, when the public-private partnership on big data continues its work? When will the Application Program Interface become compulsory? What else, besides the deployment of 5G and the growth of the Internet of Things, can help the digital economy to grow? I invite you to collaborate in finding answers to these questions, and I believe that many new ideas will take shape as a result of today’s conversations.

Thank you all, and I wish you fruitful discussions!