Downloaded the entire legislative package proposed in July as part of the EU Green Deal. Quite a bit of reading to go through 🙂
These proposals are relevant to my current work on keeping track of the emerging EU legal framework on digitisation, AI and data. Within that framework dataspaces (a single market for data) are proposed, with the Green Deal dataspace being the first to take shape. The Green Deal itself depends on data and monitoring to track progress towards goals, but also to be able to create effective measures, and as a consequence forms a key bridge between data and policy goals. Green and digital overlap strongly here.


the list of legislative documents I downloaded for close reading

Per deze maand moet het in alle EU landen mogelijk zijn om digitaal een onderneming op te richten. Nederland is nog lang niet zover, zelfs amper begonnen met de benodigde wetswijzigingen, lees ik bij jurist Ellen Timmer in een blogpost. Daarin wordt ook verwezen naar de Nederlandse notarissen die zeggen per 1 augustus wél klaar te zijn voor wat ze ‘digitaal passeren’ noemen, en een video hebben gemaakt waarin ze denken dat te laten zien.


(link naar de video van de Nederlandse Notarissen op YouTube)

Als ik die video bekijk zie ik niet het digitaal oprichten van een onderneming. Ik zie daarin dat de notaris bereid is om een afspraak met je te maken om een videoconference met je te houden. Het gesprek ten kantore van de notaris is vervangen door een Zoom call en de documenten zijn vervangen door een PDF. Dat is geen digitale transformatie, waarin de mogelijkheden van digitalisering worden gebruikt om de wijze waarop iets tot stand komt vele malen effectiever, sneller en wrijvingslozer te maken, meestal door het proces geheel om te gooien.
De notarissen staat kennelijk alleen voor ogen het digitaal maken van wat papieren artefacten, en een beeldscherm te gebruiken voor het gebruikelijke gesprek, en de rest geheel bij het oude(*) te laten. ‘Passeren’ wordt niet digitaal door er ‘digitaal passeren’ van te maken. Dat is zoals de KvK die je nog altijd formulieren op hun site laat invullen, die je vervolgens moet printen om ze te ondertekenen en per post in te sturen, en dat dan het digitaal doorgeven van wijzigingen noemen. Met digitalisering heeft dat allemaal nauwelijks iets te maken.

Ter vergelijking kun je als niet-ingezetene in Estland, met behulp van je e-residency kaart (de mijne is verlopen) die je identiteit cryptografisch borgt, al sinds 6 jaar in een uurtje of twee (al is de recordtijd 18 minuten) geheel zelfstandig vanuit elke locatie ter wereld en op elk tijdstip een onderneming registreren. De Nederlandse variant kan dat niet, want het moet wel onder kantoortijd van de notaris, en die moet bovendien tijd voor je hebben. Wat er digitaal kan bij de Nederlandse notaris, kan pas nadat ik heb gebeld voor een afspraak zodat ik er over 3 weken terecht kan. (En als de notaris er nog niet is voor je afspraak, word je in een ‘digitale wachtkamer’ geplaatst!) In de tijd die het kost om een notaris te kiezen en daarmee die afspraak te maken ben je in Estland al klaar met het hele proces. Want daar hebben ze het registratieproces wél herontworpen vanuit wat er digitaal mogelijk is.

De uitleg van hoe je in Estland digitaal een bedrijf start wordt dan ook gegeven door de mensen die de overheidswebsite hebben gemaakt, niet door een notaris. En beperkt zich tot het uitleggen welke velden je moet invullen en welke vinkjes je moet zetten.


(link naar een webinar over het digitaal registreren van een bedrijf in Estland

* ‘het oude’ als in de papieren processen gebaseerd op de wet op het Notarisambt van 1842 en de wijzigingen uit 1999.

Since the start of this year I am actively tracking the suite of new European laws being proposed on digitisation and data. Together they are the expression into law of the geopolitical position the EU is taking on everything digital and data, and all the proposed laws follow the same logic and reasoning. Taken together they shape how Europe wants to use the potential and benefits of digitisation and data use, including specifically for a range of societal challenges, while defending and strengthening citizen rights. Of course other EU legal initiatives in parallel sometimes point in different directions (e.g. EU copyright regulations leading to upload filters, and the attempts at backdooring end-to-end encryption in messaging apps for mass surveillance), but that is precisely why to me this suite of regulations stands out. Where other legal initiatives often seem to stand on their own, and bear the marks of lobbying and singular industry interests, this group of measures all build on the same logic and read internally consistent as well as an expression of an actual vision.

My work is to help translate the proposed legal framework to how it will impact and provide opportunity to large Dutch government data holders and policy departments, and to build connections and networks between all kinds of stakeholders around relevant societal issues and related use cases. This to shape the transition from the data provision oriented INSPIRE program (sharing and harmonising geo-data across the EU), to a use needs and benefits oriented approach (reasoning from a societal issue to solve towards with a network of relevant parties towards the data that can provide agency for reaching a solution). My work follows directly from the research I did last year to establish a list of EU wide high value data sets to be opened, where I dived deeply into all government data and its governance concerning earth observation, environment and meteorology, while other team members did the same for geo-data, statistics, company registers, and mobility.

All the elements in the proposed legal framework will be decided upon in the coming year or so, and enter into force probably after a 2 year grace period. So by 2025 this should be in place. In the meantime many organisations, as well as public funding, will focus on already implementing elements of it even while nothing is mandatory yet. As with the GDPR, the legal framework once in place will also be an export mechanism of the notions and values expressed in it to the rest of the world. This as compliance is tied to EU market access and having EU citizens as clients wherever they are.

One element of the framework is already in place, the GDPR. The newly proposed elements mimic the fine structures of the GDPR for non-compliance.
The new elements take the EU Digital Compass and EU Digital Rights and Principles for which a public consultation is now open until 2 September as a starting point.

The new proposed laws are:

Digital Markets Act (download), which applies to all dominant market parties, in terms of platform providers as well as physical network providers, that de facto are gatekeepers to access by both citizens and market entities. It aims for a digital unified market, and sets requirements for interoperability, ‘service neutrality’ of platforms, and to prevent lock-in. Proposed in November 2020.

Digital Services Act (download), applies to both gatekeepers (see previous point) and other digital service providers that act as intermediaries. Aims for a level playing field and diversity of service providers, protection of citizen rights, and requires transparency and accountability mechanisms. Proposed in November 2020.

AI Regulatory Proposal (download), does not regulate AI technology, but the EU market access of AI applications and usage. Market access is based on an assessment of risk to citizen rights and to safety (think of use in vehicles etc). It’s a CE mark for AI. It periodically updates a list of technologies considered within scope, and a list of areas that count as high risk. With increasing risk more stringent requirements on transparency, accountability and explainability are set. Creates GDPR style national and European authorities for complaints and enforcement. Responsibilities are given to the producer of an application, distributors as well as users of such an application. It’s the world’s first attempt of regulating AI and I think it is rather elegant in tying market access to citizen rights. Proposed in April 2021.

Data Governance Act (download), makes government held data that isn’t available under open data regulations available for use (but not for sharing), introduces the European dataspace (created from multiple sectoral data spaces), mandates EU wide interoperable infrastructure around which data governance and standardisation practices are positioned, and coins the concept of data altruism (meaning you can securely share your personal data or company confidential data for specific temporary use cases). This law aims at making more data available for usage, if not for (public) sharing. Proposed November 2020.

Data Act, currently open for public consultation until 2 September 2021. Will introduce rules around the possibilities the Data Governance Act creates, will set conditions and requirements for B2B cross-border and cross-sectoral data sharing, for B2G data sharing in the context of societal challenges, and will set transparency and accountability requirements for them. To be proposed towards the end of 2021.

Open Data Directive, which sets the conditions and requirements for open government data (which build on the national access to information regulations in the member states, hence the Data Governance Act as well which does not build on national access regimes). The Open Data Directive was proposed in 2018 and decided in 2019, as the new iteration of the preceding Public Sector Information directives. It should have been transposed into national law by 1 July 2021, but not all MS have done so (in fact the Netherlands has just recently started the work). An important element in this Directive is EU High Value Data list, which will make publication of open data through APIs and machine readable bulk download mandatory for all EU member states for the data listed. As mentioned above, last year I was part of the research team that did the impact assessments and proposed the policy options for that list (I led the research for earth observation, environment and meteorology). The implementation act for the EU High Value Data list will be published in September, and I expect it to e.g. add an open data requirement to most of the INSPIRE themes.

Most of the elements in this list are proposed as Acts, meaning they will have power of law across the EU as soon as they are agreed between the European Parliament, the EU council of heads of government and the European Commission and don’t require transposition into national law first. Also of note is that currently ongoing revisions and evaluations of connected EU directives (INSPIRE, ITS etc.) are being shaped along the lines of the Acts mentioned above. This means that more specific data oriented regulations closer to specific policy domains are already being changed in this direction. Similarly policy proposals such as the European Green Deal are very clearly building on the EU digital and data strategies to achieving and monitoring those policy ambitions. All in all it will be a very interesting few years in which this legal framework develops and gets applied, as it is a new fundamental wave of changes after the role the initial PSI Directive and INSPIRE directive had 15 to 20 years ago, with a much wider scope and much more at stake.


The geopolitics of digitisation and data. Image ‘Risk Board Game’ by Rob Bertholf, license CC BY

My first reading of the yet to be published EU Regulation on the European Approach for Artificial Intelligence, based on a leaked version, I find pretty good. A logical approach, laid out in the 92 recitals preceding the articles, based on risk assessment, where erosion of human and citizen rights or risk to key infrastructure and services and product safety is deemed high risk by definition. High risk means more strict conditions, following some of the building blocks of the GDPR, also when it comes to governance and penalties. Those conditions are tied to being allowed to put a product on the market, and are tied to how they perform in practice (not just how they’re intended). I find that an elegant combination, risk assessment based on citizen rights and critical systems, and connected to well-worn mechanisms of market access and market monitoring. It places those conditions on both producers and users, as well as other parties involved along the supply chain. The EU approach to data and AI align well this way it seems, and express the European geopolitical proposition concerning data and AI, centered on civic rights, into codified law. That codification, like the GDPR, is how the EU exports its norms to elsewhere.

The text should be published soon by the EC, and I’ll try a write-up in more detail then.

Ik zat vanmiddag in een middagsessie van Geonovum rondom digitale tweelingen waarin geodata wordt gebruikt. Mooie voorbeelden en goede vragen en bedenkingen voorbij zien komen. Ook het Kadaster kwam veel voorbij uiteraard, als grote datahouder op dit vlak.

Daarbij werd ook de pagina Kadaster Labs genoemd, een interessant overzicht van diverse dingen die het Kadaster technisch heeft uitgeprobeerd rondom 3d, linked data en meer. Ter inspiratie en voor hergebruik.

Een ander mooi laagdrempelig voorbeeld dat werd genoemd is de 3d versie van Amsterdam en Utrecht in wording, gemaakt in de game engine Unity. Hiermee is een 3D versie van de stad gemaakt die gewoon in je browser werkt, en waarin je bestaande data kunt verkennen maar ook interventies kunt visualiseren. Mooi laagdrempelig door die browsertoegankelijkheid, maar vooral ook omdat je wat je in beeld brengt direct ook weer als geometrische data kunt downloaden en in je eigen software kunt hergebruiken. Inclusief informatie over de ondergrond zoals riolering. Amsterdam en Utrecht werken in één ontwikkelteam, en trekken dus echt gezamenlijk op.

Een screenshot van 3d.amsterdam.nl in mijn browser, kijkend op Amsterdam Centraal Station en over het IJ naar Noord, vanaf een paar honderd meter hoogte.

Niet alles wat digitale tweeling wordt genoemd is een digitale tweeling. Veelal ontbreekt nog de dynamische kant van data, de tijdsas, terwijl soms de visuele presentatie dat wel bij gebruikers suggereert. Dat is al een valkuil van veel dashboards, dat gebrekkige kwaliteit of bruikbaarheid van onderliggende data verbloemd wordt door de presentatie, laat staan als we ook nog onder de indruk raken van mooie 3d visualisaties en bewegende elementen. Dat iedereen volop aan het experimenteren is met digitale tweelingen rond publieke vraagstukken betekent ook dat er nog weinig aandacht is voor hoe je de verbinding legt tussen al die digitale versies van onze omgeving, en welke praktijken en standaarden je daarvoor nodig hebt.

I installed delta.chat on my phone, to play with, nudged by Frank’s posting. It’s a E2E encrypted chat application with a twist: it uses e-mail as infrastructure. You set it up like an e-mail client, giving it access to one of your e-mail accounts. It will then use your e-mail account to send PGP encrypted messages.

So it’s actually a tool that brings you encrypted mail without the usual hassle of PGP set-up. Because it uses mail, you can find your messages in your regular mail archive (but encrypted), and you can contact anyone from the app if you have an e-mail address. The first message you send will be unencrypted (because you nor the app knows if the receiver has delta.chat installed), afterwards it will be encrypted as the app will have exchanged public encryption keys. Using e-mail means it’s robust, it doesn’t suffer from ‘there’s noone on here’ and there’s no silo lock-in. It also doesn’t need your phone number. It does ask for access to your contacts, which I denied as it is not at all a given that people will run delta.chat with the e-mail addresses they normally use.

I’ve tied it to my gmail address for now (ton dot zijlstra at gmail, ping me on delta.chat if you use it), because I wanted to have an easy interface to check what is going on in my inbox, and I have gmail on my phone anyway (even if I don’t use it for anything). I may switch over to a dedicated e-mail address later.

Some screenshots to illustrate:


How my initial exchange with Frank looked in Delta.chat


How my message to Frank looked in my mail. As it’s the first message it was unencrypted.


How I received Frank’s reply, which has an encrypted attachment.


The encrypted attachment when opened in a text editor shows it’s PGP.

I haven’t explored whether I can export my keys from Delta.chat. If you can’t, without Delta.chat I have no way of opening them. It’s a local tool only, so I suspect I might be able to get access to the keys outside of the app.