GAIA X – Decentralising data, rebalancing power?
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Dr. Eng Lim Goh, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Artificial Intelligence at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), talks about potential implications of Gaia-X, an Europe-led initiative to ensure data privacy and digital sovereignty.
EITN: What is Gaia-X?
Goh: Gaia-X is a Europe-led project creating a federated data infrastructure. Its goal is to drive digital innovation, economic growth and social progress by enabling sharing of data, insights and services at scale to capitalize on exponential data growth. Gaia-X does that based on a completely decentralized architecture, common standards and rules to ensure data privacy and digital sovereignty.
EITN: Who is driving Gaia-X and what is its objective? Why is it only for Europe?
Goh: While Gaia-X was initially kicked off by governments in Germany and France, it’s today a project with global ambitions, driven by a broad range of organizations. The project is governed by the non-profit Gaia-X Association which currently has 300 members – companies from various industries as well as public organizations. Most of the members are based in Europe, but increasingly also in other parts of the world.
The exponential growth of decentralized data, and the imbalance of power in the digital world – this is not feasible, or not desirable, for various reasons, including cost, latency, privacy, and sovereignty.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise is one of these members, we are an active contributor to the Gaia-X architecture, standards, and rules – for example, one of my colleagues is co-author of the Gaia-X architecture document. There are some obvious reasons why Gaia-X cannot be only “for Europe”. One of them is that members include large companies with global supply chains and subsidiaries around the world – i.e. a pure European data federation would not work for them.
What is really European about Gaia-X is what is called “European values” – including freedom, equal rights and opportunities, data privacy, and the central idea of creating unity in diversity, which was adopted as the motto of the European Union. In essence, you could say that Gaia-X aims to restore the initial freedom and openness of the internet, but without losing the benefits we’ve achieved over time.
EITN: What is it trying to create and what problems is it trying to solve?
Goh: We live in a data economy – a global digital ecosystem in which data is gathered, organized, analyzed and put to work both by organizations and by individuals for the purpose of deriving value from the accumulated information.
Gaia-X’s goal is to drive digital innovation, economic growth and social progress by enabling sharing of data, insights and services at scale to capitalize on exponential data growth.
A foundational value driver in the data economy is the network effect where aggregations of data, or insights from data, that are distributed around the world can be accessed by those that require them. The more data insights are shared, the better the predictions, decisions and actions will be for those involved.
Until now, the only way to achieve network effects has been the centralization of data, insights, or services, organized by powerful intermediaries. r
But considering the exponential growth of decentralized data, and the imbalance of power in the digital world, this is not feasible, or not desirable, for various reasons, including cost, latency, privacy, and sovereignty. The economic value of data comes from the services that rely on the insights and analytics from data where economic value is realized, as raw data itself doesn’t provide any direct economic value.
Hence, the central question of the next wave of digital transformation is this: how can we create network effects without centralization? Gaia-X is exactly an answer to that question.
EITN: What are the top 3 (technical and non-technical) challenges of implementing something like Gaia-X?
Goh: One major obstacle is the, on average, low maturity level of organizations with regards to creating value from data. A data federation like Gaia-X will not help you if you don’t have an advanced ability to extract, organize, and analyze data to drive new insights, better processes, better customer experiences, or new revenue streams.
Gaia-X is indeed a complex endeavor, both the task itself and the coordination of the interests and contributions of more than 300 member organizations.
This is both an organizational and technical challenge. It’s requires specific skills, mindsets, processes and business models, but also specific data and edge-to-cloud architectures to be able to capitalize on data insights from a wide variety of locations and organizations.
Another obstacle is that Gaia-X is indeed a complex endeavor, both the task itself and the coordination of the interests and contributions of more than 300 member organizations. However, there is a solid roadmap and a strong momentum which makes us very confident this will be solved.
As an example, Hewlett Packard Enterprise is currently supporting many private and public organizations which prepare to become active nodes of the Gaia-X network, and their progress is very encouraging. It’s important to note though that this preparation is necessary regardless of Gaia-X because it in essence means getting ready for the data economy.