Since 2016, MyData conferences have brought together the change-makers, pioneers and champions in human-centric personal data management to meet, share and learn, and ultimately influence the policy and practice of data sharing in Europe and globally. Over the years, the conferences became known as the most impactful event of the year and THE place to be if you work with personal data.
MyData conferences are annual events that bring together individuals, organisations, and businesses interested in promoting the idea of personal data sovereignty. The first MyData conference was held in 2016, and since then, the event has grown in popularity and attendance.
The first MyData conference was held in Helsinki, Finland, from August 31 to September 2, 2016. The event was organised by a group of Finnish organisations, including Open Knowledge Finland, Aalto University that partnered with the French nonprofit La Fing and were supported by the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications. The theme of the first conference was “Human-Centric Personal Data Management,” and it attracted over 400 participants from various fields, including academia, government, and the private sector. The popularity of the conference, which was put together by the group of enthusiasts, surprised its organisers who quickly understood the uniqueness of the event in terms of the theme, approach and the friendly vibe.
The things escalated quickly and the next year, 2017 was a very special one for MyData. The MyData Declaration, which since then was translated into 13 languages, and made an impact on e.g. the Finnish Government Programme, Finnish Presidency in the EU (2019) and the European Data Strategy (2020) was published at MyData 2017 conference. Moreover, the 2017 conference was a memorable one because it was organised in two cities – Helsinki and Tallinn on August 31-September 1, 2017. “Moving hundreds of conference participants was no joke – it took careful planning and execution of transport, logistics, safety and informal programme. In the end, it was all worth it – memories were made and no luggages was lost. My personal highlight of the conference was the people there. The expertise and passion combined for a better digital future showed that this community is well-positioned to make a change”, recalls Sille Sepp, MyData Global Director of operations, then the producer of the memorable conference.
Then came 2018 and another breakthrough, as the MyData Global organisation was founded. This happened just after MyData 2018 conference and on the wave of immerse enthusiasm towards the topic, that as it was decided, required more attention and a global organisation headquartered in Helsinki to coordinate the policy and practice efforts to implement the principles of human-centric data sharing in policy, academia, tech developments and business. The theme of the third conference was “From vision to action – the time is now” and it attracted more than 600 people from 40 countries.
By 2018 it was clear that the increasingly international MyData community would need its own representation. GDPR had just taken effect earlier that year, and because of Cambridge Analytica scandal, personal data was making the headlines. So, at the time of the conference, we had got tons of energy for starting MyData Global as a legal entity. High hopes, high energy!”, remembers Teemu Ropponen, who led MyData Global from its inception until 2022.
The newly established organisation set itself an ambition to gather 1000 people from 50 countries for the MyData 2019 conference. The event was organised as a part of the official programme of the Finnish EU Presidency that put the topic of fair data economy in the centre of the European Union’s work for the second half of 2019. This was the time where MyData started to be referred to in the first drafts of the European Data Strategy and the interest in the idea and the organisation was growing. The conference, organised under the theme of “Rebuilding trust for human-centred data economy” boosted the energy into the movement. The energy that was very much needed to overcome all challenges that the 2020 and the COVID pandemic brought.
Entering 2020, MyData Global had an ambitious goal to organise four regional conferences – in Europe, Africa, Southern America and Asia. Those ambitions had to be quickly revised. “The conditions changed dramatically but we didn’t want to leave the community and partners without an event that year”, says Karolina Mackiewicz, then MyData Global Events Lead. “We understood that our global ecosystem needed a place to gather and this was even more important than ever during the time of challenges that we all experienced in 2020”. This is how the most engaging online conference was brought to life, with 3 days of 24/7 global programme, live yoga sessions, DJ gig, speech karaoke and a concert.
After a short break in 2021, the in person conference came back to Helsinki in June 2022. With some borders still closed, the event was smaller in scale than pre-pandemic but its importance was even more pronounced than ever – the community was back together, during the transformational time of the legislative changes in the European Union, that put human-centric approach to personal data to everybody’s attention.
Over the years, MyData conferences have become an important forum for discussion and collaboration among stakeholders in the personal data ecosystem. They have helped to raise awareness about the importance of personal data sovereignty and have provided a platform for sharing knowledge and best practices.
Now, with the world back to normal, we are looking forward to welcoming all pioneers, champions, enthusiasts, newcomers and old friends in Helsinki for the 7th MyData conference on May 31-June 1. Check the programme and get your ticket on 2023.mydata.org/