Data Sandboxes: Managing the Open Data Spectrum

Primer by Uma Kalkar, Sampriti Saxena, and Stefaan Verhulst: “Opening up data offers opportunities to enhance governance, elevate public and private services, empower individuals, and bolster public well-being. However, achieving the delicate balance between open data access and the responsible use of sensitive and valuable information presents complex challenges. Data sandboxes are an emerging approach to balancing these needs.

In this white paper, The GovLab seeks to answer the following questions surrounding data sandboxes: What are data sandboxes? How can data sandboxes empower decision-makers to unlock the potential of open data while maintaining the necessary safeguards for data privacy and security? Can data sandboxes help decision-makers overcome barriers to data access and promote purposeful, informed data (re-)use?

The six characteristics of a data sandbox. Image by The GovLab.

After evaluating a series of case studies, we identified the following key findings:

  • Data sandboxes present six unique characteristics that make them a strong tool for facilitating open data and data re-use. These six characteristics are: controlled, secure, multi-sectoral and collaborative, high computing environments, temporal in nature, adaptable, and scalable.
  • Data sandboxes can be used for: pre-engagement assessment, data mesh enablement, rapid prototyping, familiarization, quality and privacy assurance, experimentation and ideation, white labeling and minimization, and maturing data insights.
  • There are many benefits to implementing data sandboxes. We found ten value propositions, such as: decreasing risk in accessing more sensitive data; enhancing data capacity; and fostering greater experimentation and innovation, to name a few.
  • When looking to implement a data sandbox, decision-makers should consider how they will attract and obtain high-quality, relevant data, keep the data fresh for accurate re-use, manage risks of data (re-)use, and translate and scale up sandbox solutions in real markets.
  • Advances in the use of the Internet of Things and Privacy Enhancing Technologies could help improve the creation, preparation, analysis, and security of data in a data sandbox. The development of these technologies, in parallel with European legislative measures such as the Digital Markets Act, the Data Act and the Data Governance Act, can improve the way data is unlocked in a data sandbox, improving trust and encouraging data (re-)use initiatives…(More)” (FULL PRIMER)”