Digital platform at the core of data infrastructure

Using digital platforms to facilitate digital transformation is a recognized development direction in digital government. Data infrastructure can benefit from the digital platform business approach. Existing developments already point in this direction and can profit from and provide a shortcut to an open digital data infrastructure platform.

Digital platforms will become the preferred and dominant business model for digital government in the future. Digital platforms offer citizens and businesses the ability to connect to government and other service providers as an integrated part of their day-to-day activities.

Digital government is data-driven. The technology, policies, standards, and human resources necessary to acquire, process, store, distribute, and improve utilization of data constitute the underlaying data infrastructure necessary to provide the reliable data that is crucial for making informed and transparent decisions.

Data in the data infrastructure comes from many sources and is used within many domains. An efficient use of government resources requires that data is stored, made available and maintained at the most appropriate level, and that it is possible to combine data from different sources and share them between several users and applications.

A data infrastructure is based on a framework that allows a community of resource providers and end-users to exchange data sets and data services with one another. A digital platform is a business based on enabling value-creating interactions between external producers and consumers. Data infrastructure and digital platforms fit well together, and the core of a data infrastructure can be developed as a digital platform.

In the geospatial domain spatial data infrastructure (SDI) has been developed since the mid-nineties with national initiatives creating national spatial data infrastructures (NSDIs), and with a regional initiative (INSPIRE) developing a pan-European spatial data infrastructure based on NSDIs.

Aligning SDI concepts and developments to digital platform concepts and developments will be of mutual benefit – and a necessity for the future of SDI. At the same time, data infrastructure – as required by digital government – can benefit substantially from the experience already available in the geospatial domain.

An important driver for a digital platform is the so-called network effects that refer to the impact that the number of users of a platform has on the value created for each user. A digital data infrastructure platform offers significant positive network effects and only few – if any – negative network effects.

Users of a digital platform can be categorized in multiple, separate, complementary classes of users interacting with each other in a multi-sided network. Network effects can be better understood by looking at the impact that the number of users in one class have on users in the same class (same-side effects) and on users in other classes (cross-side effects).

A suitable classification of users in a digital data infrastructure platform is:

  • End-users utilizing data to solve their task
  • Dataset authority protecting, taking care of, and maintaining data
  • Application suppliers offering tools utilizing data to help end-users solve their task

The most important network effects of the platform are cross-side network effects and can be summarized as follows: more end-users attract more dataset authorities and vice versa, more end-users attract more application suppliers and vice versa, and more dataset authorities attract more application suppliers and vice versa.

The digital data infrastructure platform must provide an open, participative infrastructure for the value-creating interactions and must set governance conditions for them.

Building a successful data infrastructure based on a digital platform requires a platform owner that appreciates the nature of the digital platform and its network effects, that manages the platform framework with its governance and its technology platform, and that ensures relevant measures for the quality of the value-creating interactions exchanged between the users of the digital platform.

With exchange of authenticated government data sets and data services for consumption in digital government as key feature, accountability for the role as digital data infrastructure platform owner should reside close to digital government leadership on national and supranational level.

Question is: How do we come to a mutual understanding of how to combine best practices from digital platforms with the experience available from existing (spatial) data infrastructure developments, and how do we facilitate that forces are joined in support of further development of a digital data infrastructure platform?