Digital Europe: assessing progress and looking ahead

Source: A. (Andrus) Ansip i, published on Friday, January 27 2017.

A few weeks ago, we presented the last major initiatives for building a Digital Single Market (DSM).

This concludes the series of legal and policy proposals promised back in May 2015. Now it is the turn of EU governments and the European Parliament to show their support and commitment - the sooner, the better - for the DSM to become a reality on the ground.

However, the EU's decision-making process is never that quick or simple. Apart from making sure that things go as smoothly and speedily as possible, this is only the start. The next step is to examine what has worked so far and consider what more can be done.

Getting the DSM put properly into practice is essential, of course. But as we know, the digital world does not stop evolving. We have to keep an eye on new developments and challenges.

In a few months, the Commission will present a review to set out where we stand so far. I will discuss this tomorrow with the team of commissioners involved in the DSM.

My view is that it should also contain ideas for the future, as concrete as we can make them at this stage.

For example, in our communication of May 2016 we promised to carry out a fact-finding exercise on business-to-business practices on online platforms. We need to follow this up.

Then, in January's initiative on the data economy, we opened a public consultation up to late April to ascertain whether, and how, local or national data localisation restrictions inhibit the free flow of data, and how we can improve use, reuse, portability and access to data.

We are working on how best to remove these restrictions and develop the EU data economy.

At the same time, the review should address the continuing work to digitise European industry, reduce the digital divide by promoting skills and encourage more use of e-services in public administration - to name just a few.

Cybersecurity, healthcare

I will briefly mention two specific areas where we think that more could be done: cybersecurity and healthcare.

With cybersecurity, Europe made a lot of progress in 2016. We set up the first EU-wide cybersecurity law and launched a public-private cybersecurity partnership expected to generate €1.8 billion of investment by 2020; it aims to stimulate European competitiveness in the sector and discuss joint research priorities.

These are important and necessary steps forward. But with cybersecurity, there is always more work to do and it would be complacent to sit still in the face of this very real danger.

Cyber-attacks are a constantly evolving global threat that is not going away. They are becoming more frequent, sophisticated and brazen.

They are designed in many different forms - to make money or to perpetrate crime or terrorism; sometimes to disrupt governments or institutions; sometimes to sabotage critical infrastructure.


Courtesy FireEye, Marsh & McLennan Companies: "Cyber threats: a perfect storm about to hit Europe?"

People, and now especially companies, are learning that it's a matter of when - not if - they will be hacked.

Europe needs to work more together to address these new security challenges.

Capabilities for dealing with cybercrime are uneven around EU countries. That makes us all vulnerable to cross-border and cross-sector cyber threats.

So, during 2017, we will examine ways to strengthen the EU's overall capacity, cooperation and resilience in dealing with cyber-attacks.

We will also review the role of the EU's agency for network and information security ( ENISA), to make sure it can respond to rapidly changing cyber challenges.

With healthcare, we could be making more effective and efficient use of data.

And here, there are many synergies that can be used with our expertise in data-related technologies such as cloud computing, robotics, artificial intelligence, high-performance computing and the Internet of Things.

These emerging technologies are important in their own right as promising areas of new growth and employment.

As they are further developed under the DSM, they can also be used to diagnose and treat diseases, and to transform Europe's healthcare sector.

Going international

Lastly, we should not forget the DSM's international dimension.

To get the most out of digitisation, data flows need to go properly global.

That is why Europe has to look beyond its borders too.

And it is a chance to lead: for Europe to promote digital technologies for development, steer global discussions on internet governance and technical standards, and to push for a greater role for digital in trade policy.

We could, and should, be exporting "DSM values".

These are just some of the opportunities that we will address in the DSM review. A key part of it will be to assess the progress made so far.

But it also presents a great chance - probably the last for some time - to fine-tune, to look ahead, to keep building for our digital future.

Another blog soon.