Unlocking the maximum potential of data – the free movement of data initiative

  • Insights
  • 30/06/2017 15:21


View of Tallinn's city center
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has drafted a Vision Paper on the Free Movement of Data (photo: Rasmus Jurkatam)

With the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Estonia has set forth to promote the digital sphere as one of the priorities of the Presidency. One aspect of it, is putting forward a new approach to data in the European Union.

Stemming from the Digital Single Market Strategy, there have been EU level discussions on the need to make the best possible use of data and unlock the potential of the EU data economy. Such deliberations have led to the promise  made by the European Commission to come forth with a proposal on data localisation and availability issues.

Being a trailblazer in the digital field, Estonia grasps that in order to reap the full benefits of data, there are other issues beyond unjustified localisation that need to be tackled in order to create a true data economy. With the intention of unlocking the maximum potential of this most valuable resource, Estonia has proposed for the movement of data to be treated as the fifth freedom of the European Union.

To explain the perception of the EU where data, both personal and non-personal, moves across borders without unjustified national restrictions, with clear policies for its best exploitation, the Estonian Government presents a Vision Paper on the Free Movement of Data (PDF, 477 KB), drafted by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications. The Vision Paper suggests:

"In order to make the fifth freedom a reality, Europe should focus on:

  • the removal of any unjustified data localisation requirements to non-personal data to remove digital borders and enable cross-border business;
  • promoting cross-border exchange of public administration data on the basis of the once-only principle to serve citizens and business by cutting the red tape; and
  • creating clear rules on data access and portability to remove legal uncertainty and to promote competition and innovation."

"With the vision paper, Estonia wishes to start a debate on the better and wider use of data in the EU that will be an important horizontal topic throughout the 6 months Estonia holds the position of the presidency. No sector, organisation or service can function without data. Therefore, we need to find ways to unlock it from the different silos it is currently in to reap the maximum potential of data" comments Siim Sikkut, the Government CIO of Estonia. 

The paper is available in two formats: An Executive Summary (PDF, 56 KB) and the Full version of the Vision Paper (PDF, 477 KB).