Inclusiveness of the data economy: An update ​

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Data4Food2030 aims to engage with stakeholders and understand their perspectives to maximise the project’s impact and has spent the past several months focusing on the inclusiveness of the data economy or how to enable a data economy for food systems, in which all people can participate and equally benefit. Considering the social complexity of contemporary food systems and to grasp who “the people” are, we have started by identifying key stakeholder groups in food systems. These involve:

  • “conventional” food-chain actors from farmers to consumers and waste managers
  • “enabling stakeholders” or those who support food systems with various resources such as rules, norms,funding knowledge, advice etc.;
  • “adjacent stakeholders” from sectors closely linked to food, such as health or environment
  • “data stakeholders” – those who bring in new data technologies and solutions in the agri-food sector.

We also bore in mind that each of these stakeholder groups can include marginalised groups and individuals who require a particular attention. To better understand interests and concerns that each stakeholder group has in the context of unfolding data economy, the project partners from Baltic Studies Centre, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Wageningen University, and Warsaw University of Life Sciences conducted 21 interviews with stakeholder groups’ representatives.

For many interviewees, the term “data economy” was quite new. Nevertheless, all stakeholders had relevant experience to share, as they appeared to be constantly involved with data. Often, the stakeholders were participating in the data economy for food systems in multiple data roles – as data owners, data holders, data intermediaries, data users etc. – and could share their data experience from different perspectives. The interviews confirmed that data permeates food systems, and food systems’ governance and sustainability are closely linked to data governance, including such topics as data rights, transparency in data usage, control over data and data usage, etc.
The interviewees shared the key opportunities and challenges that the food system stakeholders represent experience in the data economy context. While the interview analysis is still in progress, here are some key insights we have outlined:

  • It was recognised that data and data solutions open new opportunities for innovations in food systems that can lead to improved professional and business performance, environmental governance, and quality of life.
  • Data was seen not only as an economic asset, but also as a tool for social and environmental benefits. These opportunities stem from improved access to increasing amounts of information and faster generation and dissemination of knowledge for better-informed decision making.
  • Many interviewees had the impression that the opportunities were not fully employed or that not all the food system stakeholders were well ‘equipped’ to use them.
  • Concerns were raised that data reproduce and even amplify existing inequalities.
  • Efforts should be made to remove structural barriers that hamper participation in data economy and fair distribution of its benefits.

While it was recognised that each food system stakeholder has responsibility and a role to play in building a fair data economy, it was often pointed out that the data regulatory framework can be improved.To gain further insights and deepen our understanding of stakeholders’ experience in data economy in real-life contexts, in April and May we are organising stakeholder discussions in four project partner countries – Belgium, Latvia, the Netherlands, and Poland.

We thank all the respondents for participating in the study and sharing their views and experiences.
Follow Data4Food2030 social media channels for further update of work package 4 results!

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