One of the biggest EU tech rulebooks looming in the fall, the Data Act, was mostly drafted in Luxembourg, not Brussels. It’s where Yvo Volman, director of data at the European Commission’s DG CONNECT, and his team, are based. The EU’s data strategy, presented in February 2020 ahead of the coronavirus pandemic, has failed to excite up until now. EU lawmakers waved through the Data Governance Act, a bill meant to regulate data intermediaries, without much ado. So-called data spaces got even less attention — with the recently launched health data space being an exception.
Now that other major digital rulebooks, like the digital competition and content moderation rules, are negotiated and out of the way, lawmakers hope that the Data Act can finally give substance to the EU’s data strategy. To succeed, it will be crucial that concerned parties, like SMEs and customers, understand how they might benefit from it. Volman might play a crucial role there. The Dutch citizen with a gentle, quiet voice has a talent of illustrating the Data Act provisions with practical examples — like that of a smart dishwasher, a connected car or a factory robot.
Another challenge will be to reconcile the Data Act with multiple other bills that handle data, like the Data Governance Act, but also the EU’s protection rules for personal data, the General Data Protection Regulation. Volman already made clear that he has no plans to step on the toes of the GDPR. The Data Act is “about economic rights, it’s not a data protection instrument,” he said of the last data-related bill before the European Parliament election in 2024.
What to watch out for this year: Whether he can hold the line on the EU’s data-sharing bill, and thus data strategy, as Parliament and Council start work on the bill.
What’s their superpower: Making the Data Act concrete by giving examples of its use, while not butting up against the GDPR.
Influence score: 18/30