Advances in information and communication technologies, the increasing use of electronic devices and networks, and the digitization of production processes mean that vast quantities of data are generated daily by economic and social activities. This ‘big data’ can be transmitted, collected, aggregated and analyzed to provide insights into processes and human behaviors. Big data analytics have the potential to identify efficiencies that can be made in a wide range of sectors, and to lead to innovative new products and services, greater competitiveness and economic growth. Studies suggest that companies that adopt big data analytics can increase productivity by 5%-10% more than companies that do not, and that big data practices in Europe could add 1.9% to GDP between 2014 and 2020.
However big data analytics also pose a number of challenges for policy makers. Whilst protecting privacy and personal data has arguably received the most attention, other big-data-related issues are expected to appear on the European Union policy agenda. These include ‘data ownership’ principles that determine who shares in the rights associated with big data; data localization requirements that may unjustifiably interfere with the ‘free flow of data’; labor shortages of skilled data workers and data-aware managers; and the creation of a new digital divide that risks marginalizing those who do not make extensive use of information and communication technologies.