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Human-centric data governance

Why do we need human-centric data governance?

Data enables us to monitor changes over time, predict certain future patterns and formulate new hypotheses for the advancement of society. Data is increasingly valuable in the creation of new and innovative products and services. Over time, the amount of data being generated tends to increase rather than decrease. In addition to the increase in data volumes, data processing is also becoming increasingly diverse, with more and more AI-based solutions being implemented and automated decisions being made. This, in turn, also increases the complexity of data management and makes it more difficult for people to understand the background processes. In light of this, the objective of human-centric data governance is to introduce the principle that the implementation of data-driven services in the public sector, as well as the collection and processing of data at large, should be driven by the goal of making people’s lives easier while also empowering people themselves. Above all, by providing people with the opportunity to understand who is processing their data and for what purposes, an effective protection of individuals’ rights is ensured. It is increasingly crucial for institutions to maintain a high standard of data management – or more broadly, information management – and for data-related activities to be transparent and reliable despite the growing volume and complexity of data.

What is human-centric data governance?

In a broader sense, information management means a comprehensive approach to information, including data. Information management is an activity that supports the achievement of the institution’s and the public sector’s objectives through the management, sharing and exchange of information across all information systems and databases (the sub-activities of information management include data management, document management, content management on the intranet and internet, managing access to and protection of information). Therefore, in the context of human-centric data governance, the handling of information as such cannot be overlooked, this entails, among other things, organising and sharing data in the most transparent and secure way possible.

Altogether, human-centric data governance encompasses a wide range of measures aimed at building confidence in data processing as a whole. This could entail ensuring data quality so that the right decisions are made, empowering people and granting them the right to make decisions in the processing of their data and increasing overall data literacy. Additionally, this includes making as much data available and discoverable as possible and without restriction, to create new value by applying privacy technologies to protect the privacy of individuals.

Human-centric data governance thus consists of various activities that:

  • enable understanding and monitoring of complex data processing operations (e.g. access, implementation of data tracker);

  • give a person the option to decide to receive/change something and to do it in a convenient way (e.g. to allow or deny the processing of data through direct access);

  • allow for further safeguarding of people’s privacy in authorised data processing operations (e.g. privacy-enhancing technologies);

  • increase data literacy or awareness (e.g. micro degrees, support for different initiatives);

  • ensure that people and businesses have the opportunity to share their data (e.g. consent service);

  • improve the accessibility of services, simplify or otherwise ensure better compliance with fundamental rights.

It is vital to cultivate a mindset that places the rights and interests of individuals at the forefront and to actively work towards protecting and defending those rights and interests at all levels.

What are the strategic directions of human-centric data governance?

Human-centric data governance is based on the objectives of the long-term strategy Estonia 2035, the Estonian Research and Development, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Strategy 2021–2035 (RDIE 2035) and Estonia’s Digital Agenda 2030. Innovation and research form the core of these documents, with a strong focus on fostering a human-centric digital government.

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