- In its ambitious digital single market strategy the European Commission has included several proposals designed to help consumers take advantage of the products and services on offer. But while confident consumers are good for business, it is also true th [read more]byJohn Higgins | 17/Oct/20165 min read
In its ambitious digital single market strategy the European Commission has included several proposals designed to help consumers take advantage of the products and services on offer. But while confident consumers are good for business, it is also true that confident businesses are good for consumers too.
Digital technology is empowering consumers the world over. It has revolutionised how we communicate, work, travel, shop, learn, express and entertain ourselves. Consumers and their needs and wants lie at the centre of the process of digital product and service development.
In such a highly competitive digital market tech companies cannot afford not to listen to their customers. Failure to deliver what they want leads rapidly to lost market share and shrinking sales.
It’s important to remember that the interests of digital users and the providers of digital products and services are closely aligned. Especially when it comes to developing European policies aimed at protecting consumers.
Policymakers must ensure that the legal environment they build allows consumers to grasp the opportunities that the technologies offer, while at the same time providing them with the safeguards they need against among other things the real risks of market failure.
In its ambitious digital single market strategy the European Commission has included several proposals designed to help consumers take advantage of the products and services on offer. DIGITALEUROPE is very involved in these policy debates.
Three policy areas deserve special attention: eCommerce, audiovisual media services, and copyright.
DIGITALEUROPE welcomes the ambition to unlock the potential of eCommerce. We believe that this will not only be of benefit to consumers and businesses but also to the European economy as a whole.
In this area, consumers are already benefiting from a strong set of consumer laws designed to build consumer trust online. We believe that it is very important – and fully within the spirit of the Commission’s better regulation initiative – to promote existing rules and push for their proper enforcement before considering new rules. This is particularly important to consider while the European Commission is in the middle of its REFIT Fitness Check of consumer rights legislation.
As well as building trust among consumers, EU consumer policy should also aim to boost business confidence to sell online and across national borders.
This is very much in consumers’ interests too because they stand to benefit from greater choice and more price competition. The two Directives covering digital contracts as well as the Geoblocking Regulation must seek to deliver legal certainty to businesses by encouraging traders and service providers to make their offers available to consumers from another EU country.
Will the geoblocking initiative actually help reduce fragmentation in the digital single market and spur cross-border sales? It’s not clear. Companies have to adapt to a variety of national market conditions such as national standards of living, consumer habits and preferences, language requirements, as well as the need for businesses to comply with diverging local technical and legal rules on consumer rights, VAT rates, copyright, or rules on the disposal of electronic waste.
These differences are what fragment the EU market, not how companies respond to them. If we really want to develop a digitally powered single market the EU needs to address the root causes of the fragmentation, not just the ways companies respond to them. In other words, there can only really be a Digital Single Market where a single market already exists.
The EU effort to reform rules for audiovisual media services (AVMS) risks denying consumers the benefits that technology offers them. New online services and the development of new consumer devices capable of delivering these services to viewers at home or on the move, in real time or at a more convenient time later herald an explosion of consumer choice.
And this consumer empowerment will lead to an increase in diversity in content. The AVMS Directive should look at this increase in consumer choice and its corresponding intensification of competition among suppliers to find ways to maximize the benefits to consumers.
With reform of copyright law EU policymakers must avoid being coerced into defending a status quo that suits a particular set of commercial interests. Last December, the Commission correctly identified the flaws in Europe’s fragmented approach to copyright levies.
Yet in its proposal for reform published last month copyright levies reform was skipped. Since then the Commission has said it may still take action to address what has been dubbed the ‘cassette tax’. There can’t be a digital single market when each EU country takes a different approach to copyright levies. Charging consumers many times over for the right to listen to the same piece of music, for example, is not only inefficient and inconsistent, it’s downright unfair.
We wholeheartedly support the aims of the Digital Single Market. We also support policymakers’ efforts to make consumers feel more confident in the digital world. While confident consumers are good for business, it is also true that confident businesses are good for consumers too.
Photo credits: Don McCullough
- In the context of the 7th annual EuroCloud Forum, which takes place from 5-6 October in Bucharest, Romania, Elena Zvarici, executive board member of EuroCloud Europe, talks about how Europe can take advantage of cloud computing and the data economy. In o [read more]byElena Zvarici | 30/Sep/20164 min read
In the context of the 7th annual EuroCloud Forum, which takes place from 5-6 October in Bucharest, Romania, Elena Zvarici, executive board member of EuroCloud Europe, talks about how Europe can take advantage of cloud computing and the data economy.
In order for Europe to take full advantage of cloud computing and the data economy, we need to strike the right balance between regulation and innovation
In the digital world the balancing act between business and regulation is a delicate one. In the past year we have seen the adoption of the new European General Data Protection Regulation, the invalidation of the Safe Harbour agreement for transatlantic data transfers and problematic discussions around its replacement the Privacy Shield.
Setting these developments into the context of the many ongoing initiatives at EU level aimed at encouraging innovation and the data economy, it is clear that getting the balance right is no easy task.
Europe is leading the way in data privacy and advocates a high level of data protection worldwide. The newly adopted General Data Protection Regulation introduces a new concept of responsibility towards data ownership, as well as new legal obligations for businesses to comply. For cloud SMEs and start-ups, getting up to speed can be problematic and they will need help.
A coordinated approach is needed between data protection authorities, policy makers and industry, in order to help organizations in this transition, by providing adequate data breach reporting tools, compliance toolkits and publicising the key issues. Let’s make sure that European SMEs and start-ups, so often the drivers of growth in Europe, are well placed to comply.
While the GDPR provides a high level of data protection we must remember that we are ever more connected through digital means and cannot think solely in terms of Europe. We are global users and exporters of digital services and need to have a strong cloud computing and data economy to be competitive. International data flows will play a key part in this. To avoid regulation clashes and to create international data-driven markets, in the future we should strive towards the creation of uniform, accepted standards of personal data protection on a global basis.
The recent agreement on the Privacy Shield for EU-US data transfers did not come a moment too soon and will hopefully bring the much needed legal certainty for the approximately 4,000 businesses who made use of the safe harbour mechanism. This legal assurance is vital. Many of these companies will rely on global information exchanges. Let’s hope that the provisions in the Privacy Shield can provide a robust enough framework to encourage data flows while providing high standards of data protection.
Global data flows are vital to international trade and economic growth and the European Commission Initiative on the free flow of data, expected at the end of 2016, should aim to enable European companies, particularly in the growing cloud computing sector, to be in the forefront of the global innovation race.
The Initiative should aim to reinforce the European cloud sector, so that companies are encouraged to develop new innovative services in the cloud, sell their services cross-border and enter the global market as exporters of technology.
This can be done by providing clarity on issues such as data ownership, liability arising from data use and data localisation across Europe.
If we really want to position Europe as a global leader in the data economy we need to ensure that we get the balance right. This means ensuring high levels of privacy while fostering new business innovation in sectors that rely on data and developing trust and confidence among users, from the individual consumer to the public and private sector.
Now is the time to move forward and encourage Europe to reap the benefits of data and the cloud.
Picture credits: Roberto Sartori
- Even though ‘traditional’ public service TV and radio remain very popular, we want to consolidate the important role public service media has to play in the digital environment, says Nicola Frank, Head of European Affairs of the EBU. Here's her opinio [read more]byThe Digital Post | 28/Sep/20165 min read
Even though ‘traditional’ public service TV and radio remain very popular, we want to consolidate the important role public service media has to play in the digital environment, says Nicola Frank, Head of European Affairs of the EBU. Here’s her opinion on the main legislative proposals of the Digital Single Market strategy.
The Digital Post: What are the priority issues for EBU on the EU digital policy agenda?
Nicola Frank: Digital Single Market policies are crucial because they will impact the way programmes are licensed, distributed and presented to viewers. We want to make sure that our content reaches citizens on all devices, which calls for licensing tools which are fit for the digital environment as well as rules ensuring that all relevant networks carry our programmes, and significant platforms and interfaces display our services prominently to users. This is very important for cultural diversity and media pluralism.
The way citizens access TV and radio programmes has evolved extremely fast in recent years. Even though ‘traditional’ public service TV and radio remain very popular – reaching 59% and 44% of Europeans respectively every week – we want to consolidate the important role public service media has to play in the digital environment. This is very much at the heart of EBU members’ strategies today.
As part of its digital strategy, the EU already made a very important step towards effective net neutrality. Now we need to build on this first important stepping stone with the recent proposals on the audiovisual media services directive, the telecoms review and the copyright proposals.
TDP: What are the challenges for broadcasters in the recent telecoms review?
NF: From our perspective, the Telecoms review will impact the way our programmes are distributed on the various electronic communication networks – Digital Terrestrial Television, satellite, cable and IPTV. There is an opportunity within this review to strengthen the tools Member States have at their disposal to ensure that public service media programmes can be accessed on all key networks and on various devices. For example, ‘must-carry rules’ should be updated to match the fact that there are more means to distribute programmes and more on offer today, in particular interactive and on-demand services.
TDP: The copyright proposal has been criticised by many in Brussels and you are one of the few being quite positive, why is this?
NF: Yes, the proposal for a Regulation on broadcasters’ online content has caused quite an interesting reaction. Having analysed the proposal, we believe the Commission’s plans represent a balanced licensing solution. Effective licensing mechanisms are essential because assembling and distributing programmes implies that public service media organizations navigate through complex negotiations to obtain all the necessary licenses.
The proposal confirms contractual freedom and is in line with territoriality, principles which are at the very heart of the content-funding model. It should however be possible, for example, for Europeans who reside outside their homeland to access programmes from back home when they go online. When broadcasters wish to make a programme available across borders, then there should be adequate licensing tools out there to turn this will into a reality.
TDP: As part of the copyright discussions, broadcasters regularly mention the Satellite and Cable Directive. Where does that fit in?
NF: The Satellite and Cable Directive of 1993 is an interesting model because it has unlocked access to broadcasters’ programmes across borders on satellite and cable networks. It introduced effective licensing mechanisms for satellite transmissions and retransmissions on cable networks, which have shown that territoriality can co-exist with the Internal Market. For example, the Italian public channel RAI 1 is available in 20 EU Member States via cable with the exception of certain premium content, and those of us living here in Brussels can watch Sherlock on the BBC on Belgian cable without any problem. Around 1500 free-to-air satellite channels without encryption are available across Europe.
TDP: How are public broadcasters impacted by the proposals to update the AVMS Directive published earlier this year? From your point of you, how could the proposal be improved?
NF: The AVMS Directive covers subjects which are of major importance for public service media: informed citizenship, the protection of minors from harmful content and the promotion of European and domestic programmes to name but a few. They represent fundamental objectives for European audiovisual media policies. But what has changed is how these objectives are met in the digital environment.
The audiovisual media services Directive should be updated to ensure that valuable content for society is prominently displayed and easily accessed where citizens go to get audiovisual programmes in today’s digital environment. We want our contribution to society to be effective in this rapidly-evolving audiovisual landscape: we offer impartial and diverse information, a gateway to European content – over 80% of our EBU members’ airtime – and safe, informative spaces for users, especially minors.
Facilitating access to our members’ programmes is all the more important because powerful and VOD and OTT providers’ impact on the individual viewers’ choice and consumption is growing steadily. The Audiovisual media services Directive needs to give Member States the possibility to address access and appropriate prominence of public service media programmes.
The role of video-sharing platforms and social media also needs to be examined. Obviously, you cannot regulate them like audiovisual media service providers who exercise editorial responsibility. But there needs to be a basic set of rules to protect minors and tackle hate speech because of the importance of these platforms in the digital environment, in particular for younger audiences.
Picture credits: Pierre Metivier
- The Digital Post spoke with Paul Chong, Director of Watson group at IBM, on the future of the popular supercomputer combining AI and sophisticated analytical software. The Digital Post: What is the story behind IBM Watson? Paul Chong: It all came a [read more]byThe Digital Post | 14/Sep/20165 min read
The Digital Post spoke with Paul Chong, Director of Watson group at IBM, on the future of the popular supercomputer combining AI and sophisticated analytical software.
The Digital Post: What is the story behind IBM Watson?
Paul Chong: It all came about by chance in 2006, when a couple of guys were sitting in a pub watching a quiz show and they came up with the idea of taking on the champions of this show. Then, they started to look at the challenges.
At that point, we had a lot of experience and background in analyzing natural language programming and machine learning, so this opportunity came at the right time for us as well.
Eventually, we took it to the quiz show in 2011 and we were successful. By then we have had one million dollars and had already started to think about where we could apply the technology into different industries in a very transformational way, taking what is a lot of unstructured data and giving it some sense.
TDP: Apart from the health care sector, what are the other industries where IBM Watson is working on at the moment?
PC: We are present in 17 different industries right now, including financial services, where we’ve been typically involved with retail and utility companies.
Now we are trying to create a platform services for Watson AI machine, allowing a larger audience made up of users, developers, and startup entrepreneurs to use it for business purposes. The idea is to decompose the technology, provide it as a set of APIs, very easy to use, so that everyone can use it. What we’re trying to do is creating a really intuitive platform.
TDP: Where do you see Watson in five or even 10 years’ time?
PC: I think we’re going to see an evolution of those services, particularly in terms of numbers and quality of the services provided. For example, one of the big challenges with AI is the amount of time of supervised learning that you need to do. Supervised learning means that there is an intervention by humans to train the data and the models.
What you’ll start to see is a great improvement, namely less data will have to feed the system to teach it, and there will be less intervention from human beings. I also think services will become more intuitive to use so that businesses can take advantage of them by understanding the type of outcomes they want.
TDP: AI technologies, and computing technologies in general, are raising concerns about the impact they may have on employment.
PC: You have to look back in history in order to know what’s going to come in the future. Take the industrial revolutions for example. On various levels, we’ve always seen a situation where, as human beings, we’re very adaptable, and we start to find out what our new roles are going to be, how we are going to exist, and what work will look like in the future. We have always witnessed that humans eventually find another level to operate on.
We are now going through a cognitive age, which will require a great deal of adaptability. Governments will soon start thinking about it for the next generation. What type of training and education we are going to imagine for them? We should avoid training them to be working on machinery or doing certain mandate roles, such as accountancy, which, among others, will be automated within the next twenty years.
We have to start questioning ourselves and taking steps now. Regulators, governments and educators have to start thinking about what types of jobs are going to exist in the future, while companies and countries should focus on their competitive technology.
- With the rollover of the Root Zone Key Signing Key (KSK) ICANN is marking another important step to improve the security of the Domain Name System, i.e. Internet's address book. Here's the details. ICANN today posted plans to update or "roll" t [read more]byDavid Conrad | 26/Jul/20165 min read
With the rollover of the Root Zone Key Signing Key (KSK) ICANN is marking another important step to improve the security of the Domain Name System, i.e. Internet’s address book. Here’s the details.
ICANN today posted plans to update or “roll” the Root Zone Key Signing Key (KSK), marking another significant step in our ongoing efforts aimed at improving the security of the Domain Name System (DNS).
The KSK rollover plans were developed by the Root Zone Management Partners: ICANN in its role as the IANA Functions Operator, Verisign acting as the Root Zone Maintainer, and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) as the Root Zone Administrator. The plans incorporate the March 2016 recommendations of the Root Zone KSK Rollover Design Team, after it sought and considered public comment on a proposed rollover process.
What is the KSK?
The KSK is a cryptographic public-private key pair that plays an important role in the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) protocol.
The public portion of the key pair serves as the trusted starting point for DNSSEC validation, similar to how the root zone serves as the starting point for DNS resolution.
The private portion of the KSK is used during the Root KSK Ceremonies to sign the Zone Signing Keys used by Verisign to DNSSEC-sign the root zone.
Why Roll the KSK?
Good security hygiene recommends passwords be changed periodically to reduce the risk that those passwords can be compromised via brute force attacks.
As with passwords, the community has informed us that the cryptographic keys used to sign the root zone should be periodically changed to help maintain the integrity of the infrastructure that depends on those keys and ensure that security best practices are followed.
The KSK Rollover Process
Rolling the KSK involves creating a new cryptographic key pair that will be used in the DNSSEC validation process to verify that responses to queries for names in the root zone (typically TLDs) have not been altered in transit.
Transitioning to that new key pair and retiring the current key pair is also part of the rollover process. Internet service providers, enterprise network operators, and others who have enabled DNSSEC validation must update their systems with the new public part of the KSK, known as the root’s “trust anchor.”
Failure to do so will mean DNSSEC-enabled validators won’t be able to verify that DNS responses have not been tampered with, meaning those DNSSEC-validating resolvers will return an error response to all queries.
Because this is the first time the root’s KSK key pair will be changed since it was generated in 2010, a coordinated effort is required across many in the Internet community to successfully ensure all relevant parties have the new public portion of the KSK and are aware of the key roll event.
ICANN will be discussing the KSK rollover at various technical fora and using the hashtag #KeyRoll to aggregate content, provide updates, and address inquiries on social media. We have also created a special online resource page to keep people up to date with key roll activities.
If the KSK rollover is smoothly completed, there will be no visible change for the end user. But as with pretty much any change on the Internet, there is a small chance that some software or systems will not be able to gracefully handle the changes.
If complications become widespread, the Root Zone Management Partners may decide that the key roll needs to be reversed so the system can be brought back to a stable state. We have developed detailed plans that will enable us to back out of the key roll in such a circumstance.
The KSK rollover will take place in eight phases, which are expected to take about two years. The first phase is scheduled to begin in Q4 of 2016.
Developers of software supporting DNSSEC validation should ensure their product supports RFC 5011. If their products do, then the KSK will be updated automatically at the appropriate time.
For software that does not conform to RFC 5011, or for software which is not configured to use it, the new trust anchor file can be manually updated.
This file will be available here and should be retrieved before the resolver starts up and after the KSK is changed in the DNSKEY Resource Record Set (RRset) of the DNS root zone.
ICANN has developed operational tests that software developers and operators of validating resolvers can access to evaluate whether their systems are prepared for the KSK rollover. You can learn more about these tests here.
As the KSK rollover draws nearer, all interested parties can learn more and get updates at https://www.icann.org/kskroll. Please share this resource with others and encourage them to learn about these upcoming changes to the DNS.
This post was originally published on ICANN website
Picture credits: Mike
- Today, across Europe, we can find widespread consensus on the need to invest in high speed networks. However, there are some vital elements missing from the discussion: characterization of the technologies that will allow for such deployment, and ways t [read more]byMassimiliano Salini | 18/Jul/20163 min read
Today, across Europe, we can find widespread consensus on the need to invest in high speed networks. However, there are some vital elements missing from the discussion: characterization of the technologies that will allow for such deployment, and ways to achieve this.
According to the World Economic Forum, the Internet-based business activity will reach 4.2 trillion dollars in the G-20 countries by 2016.
The digital economy is growing faster (about 10% per year) compared to the economy as a whole, while in emerging markets it is growing at a rate of 12-25 % per year, with significant results in social and political terms, as well as economic impact.
The digital challenge is also central for the European Union countries to stimulate inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
The potential of the digital economy, the European single market, the Internet of things and the convergence between broadband and TV, can only be achieved if there is adequate digital infrastructure enabling speed in excess of 30 Mbps (Megabits per second).
Next generation access networks are a general-purpose technology with the potential to trigger productivity gains on a massive scale.
These gains might take years to accrue, because new applications and new organizational and production designs that use Next generation access networks need time to be developed.
Nevertheless, we consider wide Next generation access infrastructure roll-out to be welfare enhancing and that it should therefore be an objective of the European Union. This is consistent with the view taken by the European Commission.
The manner in which the transition to this next generation infrastructure is managed and encouraged will be crucial. Optical fiber is for sure a response to the need of durable, symmetric, reliable and easy to maintain technology.
Today, across Europe, we can find a widespread consensus on the need to invest in ‘reliable, trustworthy, high speed and affordable networks and services’: the Digital Single Market Strategy and Juncker Plan are a powerful illustration of this consensus.
However, there are some vital elements missing from the discussion: characterization of the technologies that will allow for such deployment, and ways to achieve this – all the more important at this point of time as the EU is building tomorrow’s infrastructure.
More than one year after the Junker Plan entered into force, the projects on digital infrastructure are below the expectations. To promote investments the EC shall drive the innovation through a clear framework and better coordinating member states’ initiatives.
Fibre has a number of benefits which other solutions cannot match. Apart from speed, we need to take the quality and durability of the network components and homogeneity of the network into account.
Here, fibre outperforms everything else. The network should remain in place for decades and support several consecutive generations of active equipment and services.
Fibre is the most future-proof option and progress in technologies such as bend-immunity and data compression can increase its active life even further.
According to the Digital Agenda of the EU Commission, Europe needs competitively priced fast and ultra fast Internet access for all.
In this regard, the EU is to establish next generation access networks. The Commission intends to use European funds in order to finance investment in broadband but at the same time shall encourage and coordinate MS ‘efforts and private initiatives.
If Europe wants to benefit of all the advantages offered by the digital revolution, a reliable, trustworthy, high speed and affordable network is at the basis of the digital single market.
Picture credits: Abby
- The Digital Post talked to Krzysztof Szubert, Plenipotentiary of Minister for International Affairs and Strategic Advisor to the Minister, about Poland's ambitious plans to boost digital infrastructures and services. The Digital Post: What are [read more]byThe Digital Post | 11/Jul/20165 min read
The Digital Post talked to Krzysztof Szubert, Plenipotentiary of Minister for International Affairs and Strategic Advisor to the Minister, about Poland’s ambitious plans to boost digital infrastructures and services.
The Digital Post: What are the main priorities of Digital Poland?
Krzysztof Szubert: Poland aspires to the group of leading EU countries, thus we need to take an active political position with regard to digital transformation of the state. We need to support the strategy for developing the information society combined with efficient coordination of this process. Having that in mind, we have decided with Minister Anna Strezynska, to develop up to 20-pages long document “Strategic Action Priorities of the Minister of Digital Affairs”. It is based on 5 pillars and 18 actions.
The five fundamental principles are: 1) the state should serve the citizen – thanks to digital technology the state should connect dispersed institutions and change complex procedures into consistent and simple services; 2) access to the public network and services must be safe for our data and all types of transactions conducted in the network; 3) in order to pursue e-administration targets, but above all, to achieve social and economic goals, it is necessary to accelerate the development of modern telecommunications infrastructure; 4) development of the desired innovative economy needs permanent and easy access to data gathered by public services and we need to constantly – regardless of age – improve our digital competences to effectively benefit from digitization and compete on the global market.
We are very much aware that this is not cherry-picking as for those principles to bear fruit it is necessary to observe them all together while developing any strategic public service actions. We have put together as many as 18 of them and their wide variety ranges from having one gate to services, and across adopting standards of electronic circulation of documents down to being more effective in the EU or other international institutions so that we have a stronger say on the law that is shaped up there.
TDP: How these plans could make the difference?
KS: First of all, we do have the strategy in place to follow. Over the last many years it has been the chaotic way of development and making available of electronic public services that have limited access to them to very narrow groups of recipients with their interoperability being far from ideal.
Each Polish citizen, organization and entrepreneur should be able to settle any official matter electronically while contacting any level of public administration. When we deliver that, “we will win”. What makes this strategy stand out from any previous attempts is that we really want not only the whole government participating but also wide support from all other stakeholders. The draft priorities had been available for public comment and we received huge input that finally became part of what we are implementing now.
TDP: What are the highest challenges Poland is facing in terms of digital?
KS: Lack of coordination as well as deficit of efficient project management of Polish administration directly affect the quality of development of e-administration which is all about providing facilitations for citizens and entrepreneurs. It is necessary to urgently improve methods of implementation of innovative projects and create the main center coordinating their management. To support that, we think that heading towards the national CIO model seems to be the right step. Efficiency of public administration systems is one of the conditions for the stability of the state – we have to convince our citizen and business to relay on them and to use them.
TDP: Do the Digital Single Market meet the expectations of Polish government? What are in your opinion the most important aspects of the strategy?
KS: Digitization is, in fact, the transformation of the state, rather than merely buying systems and equipment. By using modern technologies, the state can become a service provider. It is to develop faster, become more friendly and support the needs of citizens, entrepreneurs, organizations and local governments.
The DSM strategy in general is helping address those needs in many areas, but we have to be sure that it fits well into our specific market – that there is no place for one-size-fits-all. Digital Single Market requires efforts towards removing the real problems to the development of e-commerce within the EU. The main challenges the smart DSM will have to face are threefold: making sure the undertaken efforts put first the citizen, the consumer and the Internet user while adding as less as possible to regulatory burden for business with having single market benefits spread fairly equally among Member States.
TDP: Will Brexit affect European digital policies?
KS: As you may know, a broader vision of the digital single market (incl. digital policy) in the EU – supported by the Polish Government – is set out in works of the group of like-minded EU Member States which has recently been very active in making a strong consolidated voice heard in Brussels. There are 14 Member States including UK & Poland in it. We will continue to keep the same vision of building the solid foundation of the digital economy and moving the single market to the digital age without imposing new burdens on businesses.
The UK has so far been an important part of that message, and I hope it will continue to be such and that we can even convince other countries to “join the club”. Poland is now leading the V4 (the Visegrad Group) and we will stick to that vision regardless of the UK being in or out of the European Union, as long as digital single market and digital policies are bringing benefits both to the citizens and to the business sector. Therefore, one of the priorities of the Minister of Digital Affairs will be pursuing active and determined policy to reinforce our participation in developing the EU and international solutions and securing Poland’s social and economic benefits.
Picture credits: ArchiDju
- The eHealth sector within the digital single market is expected to be worth 20 billion and tens of thousands of jobs, explains Greek MEP Eva Kaili. The Digital Post: What the EU is currently doing to speed up the development and spread of eHealth servi [read more]byThe Digital Post | 28/Jun/20165 min read
The eHealth sector within the digital single market is expected to be worth 20 billion and tens of thousands of jobs, explains Greek MEP Eva Kaili.
The Digital Post: What the EU is currently doing to speed up the development and spread of eHealth services?
Eva Kaili: Over the last years we have seen significant progress. There are many initiative at EU and national level, the most important of which is the EU eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020. The Digital Single Market also represents a huge step forward. Moreover, the EU is funding research and innovative initiatives in the field as well as helping SMEs operating in this sector.
TDP: What are the main challenges for the further development of the ehealth technologies in Europe?
EK: Different languages, different mentalities, different legislation, different taxation, different education systems: these are all big challenges that we have to face, because it is clear that the development of the sector depends on more coordination among the EU member states. For instance, we still have different accreditation and validation systems in each country. In addition, the digital divide that still runs between the EU states makes things more difficult. The EU action plan on eHealth addresses comprehensively these issues aiming at building a union in the field of eHealth by 2020. I think we are almost halfway. The opportunity is huge: the eHealth sector in the digital single market is expected to be worth 20 billion and tens of thousands of jobs.
TDP: What further actions or policies should be taken at EU and national level?
EK: Overall, we need to go for smarter and flexible strategies which can be adapted to the peculiarities of very different countries. We cannot expect all member states to follow the same path at the same speed. I also think more has to be done on active aging as well as digital accessibility and digital literature. All these issues are fundamental to expand the reach and the adoption of eHealth tools among the population.
TDP: Do you think the Digital Single Market strategy will deliver?
EK: Yes, I think it can. We can already see the benefits of the efforts made in the last years towards a single digital market. Roaming fees, for instance, are about to disappear. Let me take another example in the field of eHealth. Thanks to eprescription you can have your medication in each country you go, just using your mobile phone.
This is part of a series of interviews held during the conference "Digital Single Market: Bridging the Gap" organized by the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium. The event featured keynote speeches from Commissioner Oettinger Juhan Lepassaar and Robert Madelin (EPSC). Other speakers included senior EU officials, parliamentarians, trade bodies and business leaders who discussed the future challenges for business in the areas of fintech, e-health and industry 4.0.
Picture credits: Chuck Patch
- What are the best European inventions of 2016? A look at the eleventh edition of the European Inventor Awards organised by the European Patent Office. It is called SAMBA and it is an instant blood diagnostic test providing low-cost, fast and easy-to-read [read more]byAlberto D'Argenzio | 22/Jun/20165 min read
What are the best European inventions of 2016? A look at the eleventh edition of the European Inventor Awards organised by the European Patent Office.
It is called SAMBA and it is an instant blood diagnostic test providing low-cost, fast and easy-to-read results and allowing for on-the-spot detection of infectious diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B and Chlamydia.
This is the invention that allowed British blood researcher Helen Lee to win one of the five European Inventor Awards 2016, in the Popular Prize category.
Launched by the European Patent Office in 2006, the Award has come to its eleventh edition, which was held on June 9th, 2016 at the MEO Arena in Lisbon, Portugal.
“I called it SAMBA Test because engineers like to dance, but it is also a name that people like, and sticks in the head,” says Ms. Lee, gifted with a delicate yet determined look. A frivolous name for an invention already in use in many Sub-Saharan African countries, where it helps tracking some of the world’s deadliest diseases by facilitating the diagnosis and anticipating access to care for thousands of people.
Together with Lee, the most voted finalist with 64% of the 56,000 opinions expressed online, the European Inventor Award in the SMEs category went to the Danish multidisciplinary team, formed by Tue Johannessen, Ulrich Quaade, Claus Hviid Christensen and Jens Kehlet Nørskov, who created a system to store ammonia that, through its solidification, is capable of reducing by 99% the emission of nitrogen monoxide from diesel engines, which causes over 75,000 deaths in Europe every year.
The Award in the Research category went to the French neurosurgeon Alim-Louis Benabid, who invented a system for treating Parkinson’s symptoms, while the one in the Industry category was won by the Germans Bernhard Gleich and Jürgen Weizenecker, inventors of a scheme for medical analysis based on magnetic particles.
The American engineer Robert Langer from MIT won the Non-European Countries category with its targeted anti-cancer medicines, while the Lifetime Achievement Award went to the German-Dutch engineer Anton van Zanten, who created the electronic stability system for cars that has been saving thousands of lives over the last few years.
“Today’s award ceremony – said EPO President Benoît Battistelli – is a tribute to the spirit of innovation and the work of dedicated individuals who, through their inventions, advance the state of the art for all of us.”
The contest involved five winners and fifteen finalists, who made it to the end of a selection that involved 400 inventions registered by the European Patent Office.
“We select the best innovations in the medicine, environment, social and industry field,” explains Mario Polegato, CEO of Geox and Chairman of the Jury of the European Inventor Award, “and we do so to stimulate the matter of the patent and convey the message that through an idea we can build a both economic and social fortune.”
“The first criteria we use – continues Polegato – is the originality of the innovation, then we assess how it can help people’s lives, not only in medicine field, but also in industry and environment. Finally, we try to determine what impact the innovation will have in the future.”
An innovation that could be part of our lives is the paper transistor, conceived by a couple of Portuguese scientists, Elvira Fortunato and Rodrigo Martins, finalists yet not winners in the Research category of this year’s edition of the Award.
“The paper transistor is simple and low-cost, a thousand times less expensive than silicon,” says Ms. Fortunato, the real inventor of the couple.
“We realize it with a printer whose toner has been replaced by the zinc oxide, a transparent and edible product that can be found in sunscreens as well as creams for children.”
The paper, being the insulating base of the transistor, passes in the printer, which imprints the zinc oxide that works both as conductor and semiconductor.
“We have already signed contracts with packaging companies. It is a perfect invention for the electronics of things, to create boxes of medicines that blow a whistle if you do not take a pill at the scheduled day and time, to build food containers that change colour if the product has gone bad, even before the due date, or print newspapers with graphical charts that move like in a video. Since these transistors can be digested, they might be part of the electronics of people in the future as well.” This invention did not win today, but it may have a brilliant future ahead of it.
photo credits: Jessica Lucia
- The proposed revision of the the audiovisual media services directive (AVMSD) is expected to be opposed by online service providers and kindred spirits. Here's why. As part of the digital single market strategy (which is just over a year old now), The Eu [read more]byEmma Brown | 15/Jun/20167 min read
The proposed revision of the the audiovisual media services directive (AVMSD) is expected to be opposed by online service providers and kindred spirits. Here’s why.
As part of the digital single market strategy (which is just over a year old now), The European Commission published six proposals on 25 May. A keenly awaited file among these, is a revision of the audiovisual media services directive (AVMSD).
This is the legislation that governs national rules on all audiovisual media content. This is not just about television, it also includes online portals and on-demand services.
The AVMSD has taken various forms over the years whilst adapting to the ongoing changes to the technological environment. Since the initial adoption of the Television without Frontiers Directive back in the 1980s the idea has been to create a harmonised single market for audiovisual content whilst ensuring some key principles.
These include technological neutrality, freedom of reception and retransmission and flexibility for Member States to provide more detailed and stricter rules than specified in the AVMSD.
Market developments, notably the rise of the online world, made it necessary to revisit the rules and amend the framework. With the last revision, the Directive was renamed and extended to include not only the traditional television content but also non-linear services (such as “on-demand” and internet services) providing television-like audiovisual content. This would now include providers like Netflix.
The proposal adopted on 25 May by the Commission has proposed several controversial changes such as the rules of prominence, advertising time limits and protection of minors.
The changes to the scope indicate video-hosting portals, such as YouTube, will be included as it proposes adding the following:
– a definition for ‘video-sharing platform services’ to the scope
(Article 1 a bis in the draft),
– the wording ‘videos of short duration’ to what constitutes a programme
(Article 1 b in the draft),
– a definition of a video-sharing platform provider as a media service provider
(Article 1 d bis in the draft),
– a provision specific to video-sharing platforms.
This is something that has previously not happened due to editorial responsibility not being part of the remit. However, this proposal does seem to be in line with comments from the Juncker Commission about tackling the barriers between online and offline providers.
The EU is aiming to create a single, pan-European market encompassing all digital services and thus it is unsurprising that the rules for online services are to be reinforced.
For instance, the Commission proposes a common quota at EU level, taking account of the fact that many member states have already been implementing their own national quotas for European works. For instance, in Spain and Austria, there is an obligation to reserve 30% and 50% (respectively) of their “on-demand” services catalogues for European works.
In the current AVMSD, a 10% share of the content broadcast must be European works. According to the leaked document, this has now changed so linear (television) and non-linear services providers must ensure that 20 % of their catalogues are European works. A report by the Commission from 2010 demonstrated a high share of European works in catalogues across Europe. For instance, Denmark reported in 2009, 88.9% of its on-demand catalogues consisted of European works.
In addition, the proposal sees a provision where Member States will be able to impose financial contributions to “on-demand” services for local content – a sort of European content tax.
The providers will be required to contribute financially to the production of European works, including direct investment in content or contributions to national funds. What this means in practice remains to be seen.
However, it begs the question of whether this will be an alternative to offering a specific share of European works in catalogues. Will the documented approach by Czech Republic and Italy become the ‘get out of jail free card’ for some providers?
The proposed Directive also allows Member States to oblige “on-demand” service providers to target audiences in their territories, but established in another Member State, to make such financial contributions on the revenues made in the targeted Member State.
Albeit in this case, the provider would only be required to contribute if it was not subject to an equivalent contribution in the Member State it is established in. For example, if Netflix maintains its headquarters in the Netherlands but is not obliged by the Dutch government to offer a financial contribution for the production of European works, and at the same time also targets a Belgian audience, Belgium could potentially seek a fiscal contribution from Netflix.
Netflix and other internet services captured in the scope, fear this proposal will damage their business model. Many platforms and portals pride themselves on having algorithms which tailor content according to the consumer’s taste. If a company has to financially invest in the production of European works and make these readily available on its platform, a personalized service will no longer work.
Additional requirements which may cause a stir include:
– stricter rules on protection of minors for television and on-demand services and specifically measures for on-demand services to put in place age-verification tools such as encryption and PIN codes,
– a possible daily limit of advertising between the hours of 7.00 – 23.00 and Member States are recommended to develop co- and self- regulation codes with regard to advertising certain foods and drinks.
A clear focus from the Commission is the protection of vulnerable people, this can be seen by the provision in the draft which calls for stricter rules for programmes to ensure the physical, mental and moral development of minors is not impaired.
In addition, the Commission has reinforced the current provision to protect minors from unsuitable marketing communications of food high in fat, salt/sodium and sugars as well alcohol beverages.
This has in the past placed the onus on Member States to take measures, but with the continued emphasis on health and ensuring the safety of vulnerable groups, is the Commission setting up a framework to provide European rules?
Brussels should prepare to expect a stream of online service providers and kindred spirits to rally against this new proposal. Stormy audio-visual waves are ahead!
photo credits: Jonas Smith