A stronger Digital Europe 2025: Our Call to Action

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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Manifesto digital Europe

Europe needs an unfragmented domestic market. We should nurture innovative business eco-systems to feed European champions and enable them to scale in a global market. Let us shape agile mission-based policies accordingly for the new Digital Sigle market, writes Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl.

Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl is the director general of DIGITALEUROPE and a member of the High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence.

We need the European Union now more than ever. The incoming European political leadership taking office this year stands in front of a great opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to the European project and to bring Europe to the forefront of the emerging global digital era.

Europe is a continent built on democratic values. The EU and the underpinning freedoms of its Single Market have guaranteed peace, prosperity and stability for more than 60 years.

During the last decade, however, Europe witnessed profound changes as the geopolitical tectonic plates[1] were shifting left, right and centre. In the current era of disruption and uncertainty, Europe will flourish in the global digitalised economy only if it remains united and capitalises on its common market.

There are two types of countries in Europe: countries that have realised they are small and others that have not. Our aim is to drive a more ambitious market integration for Europe to become tomorrow’s digital powerhouse. Estimates show that the potential benefits could bring up to €415 billion per year to economic growth, job creation, investment, competition and innovation.[2]

That is why the Digital Single Market[3] needs to be relaunched and grounded in more agile and mission-based policies. These policies should aim at developing a strong and competitive digital eco-system of innovative companies.

Europe currently hosts 11% of global business unicorns – 6% of which are based in UK[4]. Keeping up with global competition is becoming increasingly challenging. Europe should be able to create and retain a fair share of home-grown unicorns and champions.

Europe needs to build on its strengths in order to go digital with a clear vision and leadership. Leaders often lose sight with a defensive mindset as it conduces them to countering short-term issues instead of focusing on the bigger picture to tackle digital challenges. As leaders in politics, as well as in business, we need to ask ourselves: “What do we want and how do we get there?”

Our DIGITAL EUROPE Vision 2025 is:

  • A Europe where digital technologies, innovation and artificial intelligence can provide Europe’s people with competitive jobs, better health and better public services.
  • A strong unfragmented DIGITAL EUROPE that takes leadership in creating digital Inclusion, Green growth, Innovation, Trust, Agile mission-based policy-making that drives prosperity and creates benefits for European society and leads globally in an open economy.

Europeans need to be included and empowered to reap the benefits of the digital economy. Going digital also means new opportunities as most studies outline a net positive outlook for jobs; from 1.8 new jobs per job disrupted[5] all the way to 3.7[6]. Technology such as artificial intelligence can also foster a non-biased society through transparent decision-making.

Europe needs to go green and adopt fully circular and sustainable practices enabled by digital technology. To truly grasp the benefits of this transition, Europe should continue to build a framework for a sustainable, low-carbon and resource-efficient Europe that matches the fast-moving innovations in our sector.

Access to capital and strategic investments in innovation is crucial to position Europe as a global leader. In 2016, private investment for AI in the European Union (EU) was between € 2.7-3.6 billion, in China, it was € 7-11 billion, and the US was leading with € 14-21 billion – more than 5 times that of Europe’s.[7]

In the digital age, trust is closely linked to privacy and security. Europe has set the bar high for the protection of personal data and it should continue to do so. Concerning cybersecurity, it must act as one to ensure there are no weak links as well as promote responsible State behaviour that also enables data to flow freely across borders.

There is an urgent need for political leadership to break down national silos and sustain European values and prosperity in a global digitalised economy. Emerging ecosystems are cutting across vertical sectors. Consequently, digital policy impacts all sectors of the economy.

In the coming decades, societies will have to find solutions for global megatrends such as population ageing in advanced economies, urbanisation, and sustainability. Agile and mission-based policies can provide solutions and approaches to address societal challenges.

We endeavour to establish indicators and periodically update them to reflect the ever-changing nature posed by digital challenges. We expect to work closely with public sector, including in public-private partnerships and through supporting the Digital Europe programme[8] as well as the roll-out of a Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) where more emphasis is placed on the digital transformation of our European society.

Agile policy-making requires experimentation, hence our call for establishing regulatory sandboxing to cater to varying needs through real-time testing and feedback loops.

Technology alone is merely a tool – it is up to society to make sound use of it. We need to think about how to nurture European values, solidarity, cohesion and prosperity to leverage the European project into the digital age. European leaders will have to play a balancing act between preserving European values whilst creating value for society at large.

Decision-makers from industry and politics have a pervasive impact on people’s lives. It is our common responsibility, together with other stakeholders, such as unions to “level-up” European society so citizens and the market are ready for a sustainable, prosperous and STRONGER DIGITAL EUROPE towards 2025. This is echoed in DIGITALEUROPE’s call to action.

[1] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/06/david-law-global-futures-3-scenarios/

[2] https://ec.europa.eu/commission/priorities/digital-single-market_en

[3] https://ec.europa.eu/commission/priorities/digital-single-market_en

[4] CB Insights, The complete list of Unicorn Companies, 2018

[5] World Economic Forum, The Future of Jobs Report, 2018

[6] Agoria, Be the Change – Shaping the Future of Work, 2018

[7] McKinsey, Artificial intelligence: The next digital frontier?, 2016

[8] https://epthinktank.eu/2018/10/10/digital-europe-programme-funding-digital-transformation-beyond-2020-eu-legislation-in-progress/

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