As a society exploring opportunities that lie in data

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The German government’s data strategy – initial assessments for companies

When the German government announces a data strategy, this naturally shows that the value of data is also seen at this level. At the Federal Press Conference on the data strategy on January 27, 2021 (Data Strategy of the German Federal Government adopted (bundesregierung.de)), Federal Chancellor’s Office Minister Dr. Helge Braun referred, among other things, to a study by the BDI (Federation of German Industries), which sees a value creation potential of the data economy in Germany of 425 billion euros. However, 90% of this potential remains untapped to date. It is also a task of the economy to better tap this potential. One reason for this is that data literacy is often too low. At the same time, however, as there is a growing awareness of the value of data, many companies (and society as a whole) are too protective and reluctant to exploit the potential of data.

The data strategy summarizes many measures and goals on 120 pages to promote data usage. The approximately 240 measures are divided into four fields of action.

  • Making data infrastructures efficient and reliable

In addition to infrastructure measures such as network expansion, the role of cloud platforms, in particular the GAIA-X project, are addressed here. The promotion of innovative data distribution and data utilization business models as well as research in this area is also addressed.

  • Increasing innovative and responsible data usage

At one level, this is about creating or expanding the legal framework. This is intended to increase security and trust, while also giving companies security for their investments and IP protection. Another focus here is the area of non-personal related data and its sharing, for example in research networks. Here, however, there is also the goal of innovative, new forms of collaboration to be able to use and exploit data. Topics such as “public data rooms” but also “data trustees” are mentioned.

  • Increase data competence and establish data culture

Everything needs data literacy and data culture. The goal is to significantly increase data literacy among the general population, businesses, and science. In addition to the area of education, however, the economy is also to be promoted in data competence. Under the title “Go-Data”, SMEs in particular are to be supported in their data economy, their data competence and the development of data-based business models as part of state driven support program for SMEs (“Mittelstandsförderung”). A publicly available “toolbox” for greater data competence is also to be developed.

  • Making the state leading by example

In addition to digital infrastructure and digitization, the topic of data is also to be supported by the expansion of corresponding data expertise in the public sector. Among other things, the goal is to have corresponding positions with data scientists in every ministry area.

The German government’s focus on data can create advantages for companies. Greater legal certainty, expansion of data expertise, sensible classification of the topics of data usage and data security, promotion of innovative business models, and the establishment of shared data spaces and data trustees offer many advantages for German corporates.

At the same time, however, the pressure to act is increasing. All these measures can only be used sensibly if a company is aware of its own data, its data strategy, and its data competence. In this context, data value management is a holistic task for the company. Just as brand value management cannot be operated by marketing alone. At the same time, broadening data awareness will create more competition and higher expectations among customers, partners, and employees.

With our workshops in the area of Data Value Thinking – EN – Balgheim Blog (balgheimconsult.com), we already have experience of how the topics can be classified and further developed within the companies. We thus offer exceptionally good conditions for expanding the data strategy in the companies and increasing data competence.

At the same time, we are pleased that we are already working on the topics of data literacy and data culture with our DataValueThinking network and see the German government’s data strategy as confirmation of our initiative.

The study “The Data Value Gap”, which is currently being prepared, also addresses the question of where companies stand in their data usage and data competence. Here we are supporting the analyst firm PAC in the preparation and evaluation of the survey. Find here more about the survey: Exploring the data gap – a guide to leveraging the value of data | PAC – a teknowlogy company (sitsi.com)

My first assessment

First, it is good that the German government is addressing the issue. The importance of data competence as a basis for creating value with data and the balance between the need for security and sensible use are also sufficiently acknowledged. From that perspective, I think it is a right and good approach. As with all strategic issues, it all comes down to implementation.

From positioning in public perception and implementation in daily, political, and economic life, it will depend on the environment. In this context, I see three challenges:

  1. Data, digitization and also companies are acting ever more globally and without borders. What good is a balanced legal regulation in this environment? This is where topics such as data literacy and awareness must come in to make the differences clear. At the same time, we need to be realistic about what the international environment means. If the use of data also means the exchange of data, as the strategy paper correctly describes, then the exchange and usage cannot end at the German border.
  2. The use of data does not only mean the analysis of data. Data usage, data value, means the holistic consideration of the creation, processing, enrichment, and analysis of data through to its use in processes, activities, and products. Even though this is hinted at in the strategy, the measures seem to focus on analysis, for example in the emphasis on data scientists for the ministries.
  3. New technologies and the changing role of data must be met with new technologies and approaches. I am sceptical about building a data trustee. Here I would rather welcome the use of new technologies such as data sharing platforms and blockchains to ensure tracking, sharing, etc. If, when the Corona app was introduced, not even the state or its public institution, the RKI, was trusted to centrally store the anonymized data, then who should be this data trustee?

In summary, I welcome the data strategy and its elements. There are individual topics that still need to be expanded and questioned, but that is good. Because it shows that there is at least a foundation and activities. The biggest challenge, however, will be implementation. Data literacy and building the data culture is an ongoing process. But to increase data literacy it also needs attention, ongoing attention to a complex topic. The response to the announcement of the data strategy alone shows how big the challenge is. A truncated statement by Minister of State Dorothee Bär related to Clubhouse, taken out of context, has stuck in many media outlets as the only topic of the announcement of the data strategy.

What challenges do you see for harnessing the potential of data? I am looking forward to your comments.