Study results analyzing the needs of Swiss individuals for trusted data spaces
“The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data” is how the weekly newspaper The Economist describes the increasing importance of data (Taylor 2022). However, the potential of data is often only exploited by monopolistic tech companies (The Economist 2017). In order to harness the potential of data to better meet societal and economic needs and foster innovation, the Swiss federal administration is promoting the creation and operation of trusted data spaces for its citizens (Federal Council 2020, DETEC and FDFA 2022).
You can read about what trusted data spaces are and how they work in this blog post.
In order to identify the needs of individuals in Switzerland with regard to the sharing and use of data in trusted data spaces and their design, and thus to involve the population in the process of developing trusted data spaces, the Business Engineering Institute St. Gallen, in collaboration with the University of Lausanne, prepared a study. This was co-financed by a contribution from the Directorate of International Law of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA). The following is a brief summary of the results of the study.
In order to achieve the objective described above, more than 2000 individuals aged at least 16 were surveyed, representative of the total population of Switzerland in terms of age, language region and gender.
Results of the study
To determine the individuals’ data literacy at the outset, they were asked about the online services and apps they use in each case. The underlying intention was to identify whether the individuals’ data literacy can provide conclusions about their needs and requirements in terms of trusted data spaces.
The vast majority of individuals use various online services and apps – from cloud sharing to communication services and social networks to bonus programs such as the Cumulus card. Just 2% of respondents said they do not use any services and apps.
Two-thirds of individuals said they were aware that when they used the services and apps, their personal data would be reused for commercial purposes. Nevertheless, the majority of individuals saw themselves as only partially in control of their personal data.
Data literacy – Despite widespread use of online services and apps, the majority of respondents do not feel in control of their own data
Benefits and risks of selected application scenarios
In the second part of the survey, participants were asked about the benefits and risks of trusted data spaces in selected application scenarios. Application scenarios presented included sharing location and movement data for cross-provider mobility services and real-time information (mobility ecosystem area), sharing financial data for retirement planning (finance ecosystem area), and sharing energy consumption for infrastructure planning (energy ecosystem area). A list of all the application scenarios queried can be found in the detailed study. Overall, it was found that the data space application scenarios described were predominantly considered useful. In particular, the presented scenarios of the ecosystem domains leisure, health and energy were rated as rather useful or very useful.
The individuals considered the respective benefits of the scenarios presented in a differentiated manner in view of the associated risk for them. For example, a higher risk was perceived for the scenarios in the area of health. Application scenarios presented from the ecosystem area of finance were considered by the respondents to be rather less interesting in terms of benefit and risk.
In addition, it became apparent that the higher the individuals’ data literacy was, the more useful they considered the application scenarios presented (assessed on the basis of the use of online services and apps). Such tendencies are partly transferable to the risk assessment of the individuals, i.e., the higher the data competence was indicated, the lower the risk associated with a usage scenario.
Overall, according to the individuals, the usage scenarios of the energy ecosystem domain (sharing consumption and production data of individuals for renewable energy infrastructure planning as well as collaborative optimization of energy consumption), stood out as promising scenarios for trusted data spaces, as the domain – compared to the remaining queried usage scenarios – has both higher benefits and lower risk.
Design of trusted data spaces
In addition, the individuals were asked in the context of the application scenarios whether they thought the respective data spaces should be closed or open and organized locally, nationally or internationally. From the perspective of the data providers, there was a tendency toward closed data spaces (data sharing with known players). In the case of data spaces in the area of leisure and energy, a higher vote for open data spaces was apparent, with around 30% of the responses, compared to other areas. In addition, across all ecosystem domains and usage scenarios, more than half of the individuals preferred national data spaces. Locally distinct data spaces were preferred by about 30% and international data spaces by less than 20% of the individuals.
In addition, the individuals suggested numerous possible usage scenarios for future data space projects, such as applications in the areas of justice, government contact, leisure activities, and even health.
Usage scenarios and design of trusted data spaces – The population has a differentiated opinion on the benefits and risks of data spaces in the various areas. Data providers currently prefer closed data spaces with a Switzerland-wide focus in the areas surveyed.
In the third part of the survey, the individuals were asked about desired functions and requirements for a trusted data space. It was particularly important to the individuals to be able to benefit from personalized services and analyses in the data space by sharing their data. This was followed by the possibility of monetizing one’s own data and the possibility of combining and using the data accessible in the data space for one’s own purposes. The least importance was attributed to donating one’s own data.
In terms of the functions of a data space, transparency and control aspects were most important to the individuals. Accordingly, individuals wanted to be able to see what data was being collected from them and who was using their data and for what purpose. Likewise, individuals would like to be able to assign and revoke access rights for sharing their own data for defined purposes.
In addition, the individuals were asked about their preferred method of assigning access rights to their data. There was a strong tendency for 8 out of 10 individuals to want to manage their access rights independently. The management of their own access rights by data trustees or by suitable technical solutions was only considered as an option to a limited extent.
Despite the numerous possibilities that individuals expect from a trustworthy data space, only around one fifth were willing to pay for the services provided by a data space. In contrast, over half of the individuals indicated that they would not pay for a data space.
Requirements for trusted data spaces – Clear vote for data spaces in the form of public-private partnerships that enable self-determination and control over one’s own data
In summary, the results of the study show that individuals in Switzerland see a need for trusted data spaces in Switzerland and, thanks to already great data literacy, are able to assess and differentiate between the benefits and risks of different application scenarios.
“Swiss citizens are in favor of trusted data spaces and are able to differentiate between their benefits and risks.”
Project team: individual-based needs analysis for trusted data spaces
Federal Council (2020). Digital Switzerland Strategy. https://www.digitaldialog.swiss/de/
Taylor, P. (2022). Volume of data/information created, captured, copied, and consumed worldwide from 2010 to 2020, with forecasts from 2021 to 2025. Statista. 08.09.2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/871513/worldwide-data-created/
The Economist (2017). The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data. 07.05.2017. https://www.economist.com/leaders/2017/05/06/the-worlds-most-valuable-resource-is-no-longer-oil-but-data, accessed on: 12.09.2023.
DETEC and FDFA (2022). Creation of trusted data spaces based on digital self-determination. https://www.newsd.admin.ch/newsd/message/attachments/70835.pdf