Writings on what makes Europe and the world tech

Open source GDP add, approaching data ownership, blockchain based identity and a humble milestone

The common theme for this week's #discoveries is open and decentralized technologies. I'm passionate about this space as I've worked in companies using these technologies for a long time and I'm excited to write the following news.

Open source added €65-€95 billion to the EU's GDP

The European Commission recently published a report outlining the benefits of open source technology in Europe. While the figures are from 2018, it is still very interesting to observe the impact of this technology.

According to the report, that year companies from across the bloc invested €1 billion in open source software and received “an additional economic output of between €65 and €95 bn, the equivalent of air and water transport combined”.

Open source (software) means the copyright holder shares the source code of the technology used for anyone to observe and modify it. Being open about the technology used doesn't mean forgoing profits as there are many open source unicorn (valuation more >$/€1 billion) companies.

The report outlines how this technology can especially help GovTech's – i.e. public administration – autonomy and innovation capacity which has been slowed down by the high cost of switching providers that use closed systems.

On the other hand, China for example embraces open source a step further. It uses it as an industrial policy tool to boost domestic innovation by having participants build on each other's work.

Approaching data ownership

Three researchers from the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany wrote a fascinating article on the ethics of data ownership. In essence, this is a contested topic where it is difficult to pin down attribution in the face of replicability and utility.

The authors distinguish four dimensions of data ownership – “the institutionalization of property versus cognate notions of quasi-property; the marketability versus the inalienability of data; the protection of data subjects versus their participation and inclusion into societal endeavours; and individual versus collective claims and interests in data and their processing”.

They also “demonstrate how the meanings of data ownership raise both issues of material ownership (pertaining to the sphere of distribution) and issues of socio-cultural ownership (pertaining to the sphere of recognition).”

What particularly caught my eye is how one might go about protecting information and ultimately arriving at data ownership through different layers. This can happen on the syntactic or the “code layer which refers to the code that expresses it”. Other layers include the pragmatic level “which refers to the effects, uses, and purposes of information”.

I'm closely following the non fungible token (NFT) space at the moment and the build of such tokens is to attribute provenance (true ownership/origin) in the face of replicability. I'm also reminded of the Solid protocol which strives to give data sovereignty to the individual.

This is a project that is being worked on by Sir Tim Berners-Lee who is one of the modern web's creators. Whether both of these can be adopted en masse to address data ownership (and privacy and security) is an open question.

EU digital identity's blockchain potential

The EU has proposed a framework to enable all citizens to have an e-wallet and digital identity that can be used for administrative purposes. One of the goals of Europe's Digital Compass program is to have 80% of citizens use digital IDs by 2030.

As of today only 14 member countries have at least one eID scheme and out of those 7 are mobile. Among the interesting and important takeaways is that the proposal allocates a budget for the development and adoption of these solutions to reach a critical mass.

It also opens the door for technical implementation and stresses the importance of security, privacy and interoperability. These values are also the ones behind many blockchain projects and there is a huge potential for Web 3.0 technologies to lead the charge for European digital sovereignty.

A humble milestone and cadence revisited

This week Shift Print passed 100 Twitter followers. I'm very excited and humbled to count brilliant minds in academia, policy and tech among the blog's audience. Due to an increased workload, Shift Print will go out every two weeks instead of weekly (most of the summer notwithstanding :), at least until the end of the year.

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