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Data sharing – unleashing a new generation of public services

Pierre-Adrien Hanania
28 February 2023

Governments and public agencies are facing an expanding range of complex crises in areas such as climate change, immigration, and healthcare. To respond, these organizations need to find ways to leverage the increasingly rich public data at their fingertips to develop multi-layered programs and services.

This is why data sharing is becoming an important part of the conversation as governments accelerate their digital transformations to meet the evolving needs of their citizens. The benefits of digital ecosystems and data spaces – secure infrastructure where sensitive information can be pooled and shared while preserving privacy – are coming into focus for leaders with a strong digital vision.

And yet, serious obstacles are slowing progress toward realizing the full potential of these new paradigms. In a new Capgemini Research Institute report, -“Connecting the dots: Data sharing in the public sector,” more than half of public organizations surveyed cite trust, technology, and culture as the main factors holding them back from large-scale deployment of data ecosystems. Indeed, technology tops that list of concerns with 39% of surveyed organizations saying they lack the infrastructure to collect and identify data, 50% stating they can’t store and process it, and 52% are struggling to embrace modern tools like cloud and AI.

It’s easy to be frustrated by the slow pace of change. Only 10% of the public sector organizations we surveyed have deployed data ecosystems, while another 17% are in the early deployment phase. The remaining 73% are still planning or piloting initiatives.

While, these hurdles may seem high, they are not insurmountable. In speaking to these public digital officers, we came away encouraged, even inspired. Our survey found that public sector leaders believe data ecosystems could enable close 10% improvement on average in the use of government funds and resources. These public leaders are rising to the moment by finding creative and innovative ways to build data platforms that one day could revolutionize their roles in the daily lives of their people.

They understand that building mature data-sharing ecosystems is a long-term journey. Breaking that journey down into definable steps can make it less intimidating, and the goals more achievable.

In this report, we recommend a roadmap based on four key actions that public sector organizations should take to begin building support for their own data sharing strategies:

  1. Identify the use cases, data sources, and participants necessary for an ecosystem: By clarifying the reason for developing a data ecosystem, uses cases will emerge that fit these goals. That, in turn will help identify and prioritize the internal and external data sources required, including citizen-generated data. Finally, determine who the participants in the data ecosystem should be, the value the ecosystem can deliver for each of them, and potential incentives to encourage data sharing.
  2. Develop the infrastructure for interoperability and collaborative work with data: The digital infrastructure should include data exchange platforms, decentralized data management architectures such as data mesh, and a cloud-based foundation. There is a large choice of data exchange platforms that can enable sharing. Couple this with decentralized data that allows for federated ownership and governance policies that are easy to define, and the elements are in place to ensure security and compliance in a cloud environment.
  3. Establish trust across the full spectrum of data-sharing practices, from governance and organizational set-ups to technology: Trust is one of the biggest barriers to data sharing and must be a priority. To build governance mechanisms that drive transparency and accountability, public organizations should leverage advancements in privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs). These include technologies such as differential privacy, federated learning, and homomorphic encryption that safeguard data privacy.
  4. Develop skills and capabilities for a data-driven culture: This starts with holistic training to provide employees with skills in AI, data, and privacy management. Our survey found that only 55% of organizations have trained employees on the ethical use of citizen data. All employees must recognize their obligations and opportunity to participate in shaping data services rather than seeing data as a niche issue for the IT or data teams. Clear communication of the mission-driven goals can be an important motivator. There is also a robust playbook for building data culture, including sandboxes, innovation labs, hackathons, data academies, and academic collaboration, where appointing a Chief Data Officer can accelerate driving data strategy and coordinating initiatives with other stakeholders.

The data road ahead

At Capgemini, we see four key benefits of collaborative data ecosystems: citizen engagement, cost reduction, insight multiplication, and interoperability that leads to process efficiency. But we are not there yet. Governments have not answered the technological, human, and governance challenges necessary for laying the data sharing groundwork.

Maria Bäcklund-Hassel, a Senior Advisor and International Coordinator at Sweden’s eHealth Agency, explained the multitude of reasons that her country is struggling to embrace data sharing. Even so, she is optimistic that the rise of healthtech startups, the lessons from Covid, and the European Health Data Spaces (EHDS) proposal are going to break the logjam and create consensus for overcoming those issues. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been a great initiator of momentum around data sharing,” she said. “How great would it have been if we could have shared information then? To see the level of vaccination, and how the virus was spreading throughout Europe – this type of data is critical for us, it’s not just nice to have.”

It’s easy to see how such leaders can get sidetracked and demoralized. Public data leaders must confront data fragmentation, antiquated policies, complex rulemaking, conservative practices, and turf wars between different levels of governments. And yet, in the interviews for this report, we found a growing range of examples of leaders who were undaunted by these problems and were finding creative ways to blaze data sharing trails.

Consider, for instance, Europe. The European Commission has launched “DS4Skills”, a project focused on developing a data space for education and skills as part of a broader effort to create common European data spaces to accelerate the EU’s digital transformation. The Gaia-X initiative in Europe was created to develop a European cloud infrastructure based on the principles of cloud sovereignty and has spawned such experiments as Agdatahub, a data ecosystem to facilitate agricultural data sharing to promote sustainability and innovation. And the EU-funded project “MyHealth-MyData (MHMD),” is demonstrating the power of homomorphic encryption to facilitate the sharing of sensitive health data.

In Spain, Chief Data Officer Alberto Palomo-Lozano said his agency has a mandate to explore “potential ecosystems which can facilitate greater insights by combining this data with cloud technology.” He’s been collaborating with the nation’s CIO to develop the necessary governance and technology systems. As an early step, they’ve released a MyCitizen tool that let’s citizens browse information government agencies have collected on them. “One hope with this project is to facilitate a greater sense of data ownership by citizens and be able to engage them even more so in these processes,” he said.

Meanwhile, three Spanish hospitals launched a collaborative initiative using federated learning to increase the speed and accuracy of COVID-19 screening. Dr. Javier Blázquez, Head of the Radiology Department at Hospital Ramón y Cajal – one of the participating hospitals – said: “Federated learning allows us to improve our diagnostic reliability without disrupting data privacy, and since the experience of a hospital is shared among several others, the results improve a lot with respect to those obtained separately.”

These efforts clearly show, the benefits of collaborating with data. The report’s four action items chart a path for public data leaders ready to steer their organizations toward a data-sharing future. The time to start is now. It’s a matter of having the right vision and starting to plan to take those first steps.


Pierre-Adrien Hanania

Global Offer Leader – Data & AI in Public Sector
At the crossroads between citizenship, political action, and common values, artificial intelligence (AI) and data hold great treasures for the public sector if their full potential is realized for enhanced citizen services. By intelligently using data, public organizations will be able to augment their processes with automation and their decisions with insights, to the benefit of both public servants and citizens.

Wilde Thyholt

Lead Data Scientist and Data driven Government SME in global public sector
Wilde is an experienced leader helping Nordic organizations adapting to and drive innovation in large-scale data platform transformations. She is also a skilled data analyst with knowledge from several cross-border data sharing initiatives