Brussels, 9 of March 2021
Yesterday, the European Commision sent a communication to the EU parliament, the Council, the European Exonomic and Social Committes and the Committee of the regions regarding the strategy to put in place to transform EU society in a digitalized society. The following is a summary of the report.
According to the Commission, in just a year, the COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed the role and perception of digitalisation in our societies and economies, and accelerated its pace. Digital technologies are now imperative for working, learning, entertaining, socialising, shopping and accessing everything from health services to culture. It has also shown the decisive role that disruptive innovation can play. The pandemic has also exposed the vulnerabilities of our digital space, its dependencies on non-European technologies, and the impact of disinformation on our democratic societies. In the light of these challenges, their stated ambition is more relevant than ever: to pursue digital policies that empower people and businesses to seize a human centred, sustainable and more prosperous digital future.
THE VISION FOR 2030: EMPOWERED CITIZENS AND BUSINESSES
The European way to a digitalised economy and society is about solidarity, prosperity, and sustainability, anchored in empowerment of its citizens and businesses, ensuring the security and resilience of its digital ecosystem and supply chains.
One of the key lessons of the pandemic is that digitalisation can bring people together independently of where they are physically located. Digital infrastructure and rapid connectivity bring people new opportunities. Digitalisation can become a decisive enabler of rights and freedoms, allowing people to reach out beyond specific territories, social positions or community groups, and opening new possibilities to learn, have fun, work, explore and fulfil one’s ambitions.
This will enable a society where geographical distance matters less, because people can work, learn, interact with public administrations, manage their finance and payments, make use of health care systems, automated transport systems, participate to democratic life, be entertained or meet and discuss with people anywhere in the EU, including in rural and remote areas.
FOUR CARDINAL POINTS FOR MAPPING THE EU’S TRAJECTORY
- A digitally skilled population and highly skilled digital professionals
In the world of tomorrow, if we want to be the master of our own destiny, confident in our means, value and choices, we must rely on digitally empowered and capable citizens, a digitally skilled workforce and way more digital experts than today. This should be fostered by the development of a high-performing digital education ecosystem, as well as by an effective policy to promote links with and attract talent from all over the globe. Digital skills will be essential to reinforce our collective resilience as a society. Basic digital skills for all citizens and the opportunity to acquire new specialised digital skills for the workforce are a prerequisite to participate actively in the Digital Decade, as explained in the European Skills Agenda.
- Secure and performant sustainable digital infrastructures
Europe will only achieve digital leadership by building it on a sustainable digital infrastructure regarding connectivity, microelectronics and the ability to process vast data as they act as enablers for other technological developments and support our industry’s competitive edge. Significant investments need to be made in all of these areas that require coordination to achieve European scale.
Excellent and secure connectivity for everybody and everywhere in Europe is a prerequisite for a society in which every business and citizen can fully participate.
- Digital transformation of businesses
During the COVID-19 pandemic embracing digital technologies has become essential for many businesses. By 2030, more than just enablers, digital technologies including 5G, the Internet of Things, edge computing, Artificial Intelligence, robotics and augmented reality will be at the core of new products, new manufacturing processes and new business models based on fair sharing of data in the data economy. The transformation of businesses will depend on their ability to adopt new digital technologies rapidly and across the board, including in industrial and services ecosystems that are lagging behind. EU support, notably through the Single Market, Digital Europe and Cohesion programmes, will promote the deployment and use of digital capabilities including industrial data spaces, computing power, open standards, testing and experimentation facilities.
Businesses should be encouraged to adopt digital technologies and products with lower environmental footprint and higher energy and material efficiency. Digital technologies must be rapidly deployed to enable a more intensive and efficient resource use. In this way, boosting Europe’s material productivity will both reduce manufacturing input costs and our vulnerability to supply shocks.
- Digitalisation of public services
By 2030, the EU’s objective is to ensure that democratic life and public services online will be fully accessible for everyone, including persons with disabilities, and benefit from a best–in-class digital environment providing for easy-to-use, efficient and personalised services and tools with high security and privacy standards. Secured e-voting would encourage greater public participation on democratic life. User-friendly services will allow citizens of all ages and businesses of all sizes to influence the direction and outcomes of government activities more efficiently and improve public services. Government as a Platform, as a new way of building digital public services, will provide a holistic and easy access to public services with a seamless interplay of advanced capabilities, such as data processing, AI and virtual reality.
To be fully empowered, people should first have access to affordable, secure and high quality connectivity, be able to learn basic digital skills –which should become a right for all- and be equipped with other means which together allow them to fully participate in economic and societal activities of today and the future. They also need to have easy access to digital public services, on the basis of a universal digital identity, as well as access to digital health services. People should benefit from non-discriminatory access to online services and as well from the realisation of principles, such as secure and trusted digital spaces, work-life balance in a remote working environment, protection of minors, and ethical algorithmic decision-making.
A COMPASS TO REACH THE 2030 TARGETS AND OBJECTIVES
To deliver the renewed EU ambition for digitalisation a robust framework is necessary. It should encompass our vision based on the four cardinal points, digital principles and addressing critical capacity gaps.
INTERNATIONAL PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE DIGITAL DECADE
For Europe’s Digital Decade to be successful, the EU will build strong international digital partnerships matching the four pillars of our Compass: skills, infrastructures, transformation of business and of public services. These will strengthen the EU’s capacity to assert its own interests and deliver global solutions while fighting against unfair and abusive practices and ensuring the security and resilience of EU digital supply chains. The EU’s starting point is an open digital economy based on the flow of investment and innovation as an engine for prosperity. At the same time, the EU will strongly promote their core interests and values, through three overarching principles: a level playing field in digital markets, a secure cyberspace and upholding fundamental rights online.
Trade policy and agreements will play a vital role in this regard by setting the global and bilateral rules for digital trade in an open but assertive manner, based on European values.
CONCLUSION: THE WAY FORWARD
The Digital Compass Communication maps out a clear path towards a common vision and actions for Europe to succeed in the Digital Decade, at home and in the world. The involvement and commitment of the public and of all stakeholders is crucial to achieve a successful digital transformation. In this context, the Commission, shortly after this Communication, will start a wide consultation process on the digital principles. It will engage with the Member States, the European Parliament, regional and economic and social partners, businesses and citizens, on specific elements of the Communication during 2021, including the compass framework with specific targets and governance. The Commission will set up a stakeholder forum, which would be associated to some aspects of the Digital Compass 2030 work. The Commission will build on these concertation steps with a view to proposing the Digital Policy Programme to the co-legislators by the third quarter of 2021, and hopes to achieve decisive progress with the other institutions on a Declaration of Digital Principles by the end of 2021.