BusinessEurope Headlines No. 2019-14
By Patrick Grant, Adviser on the Digital Economy
The 4th industrial revolution is well underway. It will build on digitalisation. Advances in technology have progressed in the past 30 years. All sectors have embarked on the journey of digitalisation. The next phase will build on this progress through advances in connectivity and communication between technologies. Machines and devices will be brought together through cyberspace to interact in a complete environment that delivers seamless solutions. 5G is on our doorstep. Permitting mass traffic at lower latencies presents it as the catalyst of this new age.
But where is Europe in this global digital race? At the end of this legislature we find ourselves carefully determining our digital personality. We have opened internal borders to enable data to flow freely and updated our investment rules for telecommunications. Both should give our waning digital infrastructure the conditions for incentivising investment that it greatly needs. Not only vital for Europe to lead in key strategic digital areas (e.g. blockchain and micro-electronics) but also to give citizens access to opportunities digital affords. Europe will need to build on this progress as it rolls-out 5G so that advances in transportation, health and resource efficiency can be achieved.
But evasive forces are in play. Some competitors share our values, others do not. Cyber-attacks are on the rise and becoming detrimental to Europe’s welfare. Cybersecurity schemes will contribute to raise Europe’s cyber-capacities but more is needed to counter dangers that cyber-espionage presents. No longer are attacks simple malware disruptions. Nor are the actors involved individuals attempting to gain profit alone. Organised state-funded cyber-espionage threatens Europe’s IP, critical infrastructure and public institutions. A coordinated response to deter hostile actors is required. This will enable trust for businesses to continue to invest and consumers to remain protected.
Consumer preference is constantly in flux. But privacy is a staple diet for any citizen accessing a service. Europe has progressed the data economy for its citizens and businesses have responded. The GDPR has been fully implemented for nearly a year. It leads the way in setting the global gold standard for data protection. Businesses have grasped this privacy sea-change with vigour offering consumers control and transparency over how their data is processed. But this is threatened by the on-going sleepwalk into ePrivacy. What began as a laudable aim to update rules to match the trajectory of technology and its use currently represents a wrong turn that would highly damage achieving Europe’s digital goals. Policymakers need a holistic and “digital by default” approach. Individual initiatives should link across all policy areas understanding that success relies on the relationship between each other and whether together they achieve goals such as fully digitalising Europe’s manufacturing sector or leading in AI.
As automation proliferates, the existing digital skills gap in Europe becomes ever more important to close. This revolution offers efficiency gains making work-life balances more favourable but tasks will also change. This will benefit workers enabling them to fulfil safer and more rewarding roles. But basic and advanced digital skills are needed to enable us to take up the tasks of tomorrow. While Europe recognises the importance of augmented human capital through delivering its Ethical Guidelines for Artificial Intelligence (AI) it still needs to recognise that greater investment in human capital itself is needed to promote digital skills and aid critical decision making. Up-skilling and lifelong learning should be championed to ensure we are equipped to thrive.
Europe’s digital identity stands between innovative freedom to develop, collaborate, research and test, while standing up for European values to take society with it. Markets should be monitored and fostered. If failures are understood, actions should attempt to adapt existing frameworks before entirely new rules are put in place. Strengthening industry, policy makers and civil society collaboration can enable Europe to take on the dynamic personality it will need to react to these fast-moving changes.
You will find more of our digital ambitions for 2019-2024 – here.
Contact: Patrick Grant
Contact: Robert Plummer
Contact: Rebekah Smith
- 2 May: Headlines will be back, after Easter break
- 4 May: Open Day of the European institutions in Brussels
- 6-7 May: EBS 2019: Tomorrow's Europe