The 2013 European Big Data Conference: Towards a Data-Driven Economy for Europe

1 October 2013 Volha was among over 150 delegates who attended the 2013 European Big Data Conference held at the Stanhope Hotel in Brussels. The Conference was hosted by Google, Intel and SAS and organised by Forum Europe.

European Big Data Conference, October 2013

The event brought together some key policy-makers and stakeholders to discuss key issues related to the potential of the big data and data analysis for the European economy at a series of panels:

  • The ‘big ticket’ – Developing the European data eco-system
  • Maximising the potential – The benefits of data analysis
  • The bigger picture – Revolutionising the public sector
  • Unleashing power of data-driven innovation for growth – Achieving an appropriate regulatory environment

The Conference was opened with a video address from Vice President Kroes, who emphasised the ‘huge potential’ that big data and big data analysis hold for Europe, but stressed that big data could only become a ‘recipe for growth’ once a coherent data eco-system was established at the EU level (to listen to the video address from Vice President Kroes, visit: http://eu-ems.com/summary.asp?event_id=176&page_id=1457).

While some presentations stressed the importance of big data analysis over the ‘size’ of big data and considered the relationship between big data and open data, most of the presentations focused on opportunities associated with big data and its analysis in a variety of sectors (e.g., research, health, industry, etc.), with some speakers further emphasising the need for Europe not to ‘be left behind’ and not ‘to miss the boat’ (the danger of that happening was illustrated by the fact that 80% of the leading big data business are in the USA).

In this context, data protection was at times considered as an obstacles/challenge rather than a necessity, or even a ‘competitive advantage’, as recently suggested by Vice President Reding (http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-13-720_en.htm).

Indeed, some presentations, but especially the discussion that followed, revealed a tangible tension between the EC digital agenda (with its arguable reliance on data maximisation and the need for data protection to be ‘in line with business opportunities’) and the support for the data protection reform (with its principle of data minimisation and conceptualisation of personal data as a human right, with data subject and individual citizen ‘still at the centre’).

Further differences in terms of the desired regulatory environment were evident between the EU and US positions, with the former emphasising the need for strengthening the current data protection framework and the latter arguing for an environment that would not stifle business innovation.

For more information about the event, visit: http://eu-ems.com/summary.asp?event_id=176&page_id=1457

Photos of the event are available at: http://eu-ems.com/practical.asp?event_id=176&page_id=1768