• Future of the Internet

    globe-2

    The Internet Governance Forum enters its second decade

    The 10-year extension of the IGF mandate is a testament to the IGF’s significant evolution over the past decade as the leading global forum for dialogue on Internet governance issues. What's next? As the Internet continues to evolve at breakneck speed, [read more]
    byNigel Hickson6 min read
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    The 10-year extension of the IGF mandate is a testament to the IGF’s significant evolution over the past decade as the leading global forum for dialogue on Internet governance issues. What’s next?

    As the Internet continues to evolve at breakneck speed, many critical issues still need to be addressed. A major area is Internet governance. This broad realm encompasses both governance of the Internet (essentially the business of ICANN and other technical organizations) and governance on the Internet (a range of issues affecting services and content, such as privacy and cybersecurity).

    Last year, the U.N. General Assembly approved the renewal of the mandate of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) for another 10 years. Born in Tunis at the end of the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the IGF has evolved to serve as the leading global forum for dialogue on Internet governance issues. Since the first forum in 2016, the IGF has been an annual event.

    The IGF now gathers a growing number of experts from academia, civil society, governments, industry and the technical community. Traditional topics of Internet governance involve setting rules, standards, policies and providing technical support so that the world can be connected on the global Internet. Going beyond the technical issues, the IGF also deals with complex social, economic and transnational issues related to the use of the Internet.

    Getting to where we are today has been both a challenging and rewarding journey that is still in progress.

    The IGF has gone through times of skepticism about both its continued existence and its ability to fulfill its mandate. Over time, the IGF has gradually expanded beyond its narrow circle as a “discussion only” forum to include processes that can produce tangible and useful outcomes, seen in the Best Practices Forums (BPF) and the Dynamic Coalitions. The 10-year extension of the IGF mandate is a testament to the IGF’s significant evolution over the past decade.

    Earlier this month, over 2000 participants from 83 countries came together in Guadalajara, Mexico, with hundreds more participating remotely, to attend the 11th IGF meeting, the first since the mandate’s renewal.

    As in previous years, ICANN’s Board directors, community leaders and senior staff attended the IGF. But unlike past years, the role of ICANN and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions did not take center stage in Guadalajara.

    This is thanks to the Internet community that worked hard over the past few years to finalize the transition of the U.S. Government’s stewardship of the IANA functions to the global multistakeholder community. Instead, this year’s debate was focused on lessons learned from the IANA transition as a recent and successful example of a multistakeholder process in action.

    With over 200 sessions, the 2016 IGF agenda covered the standard topics of Internet governance such as access, diversity, privacy and cybersecurity; plus more current issues related to online trade, the Internet of Things (IoT) and the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

    Links between SDGs, Internet governance and the IGF figured strongly on the agenda, with a main session and several other workshops organized on this topic. A common sentiment this year was that the IGF should focus more on the SDGs; a stance that was conveyed clearly during the “Taking Stock” session on the last day.

    ICANN’s participation at IGF 2016 was led by CEO Göran Marby and Board Chair Stephen Crocker. Primary objectives were to emphasize the successful IANA stewardship transition as an example of how ICANN’s multistakeholder processes work, and to encourage participation in the ongoing work of ICANN’s Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees.

    ICANN’s goals are to continue supporting the multistakeholder model in Internet governance and contributing to global policy discourse with all interested parties – activities that are within ICANN’s mission and scope.

    On the day before the event, ICANN organized a town hall session to reflect on the evolution of ICANN’s multistakeholder processes using the IANA stewardship transition as a case study. Presenters sought views from participants on their experiences with ICANN and how they envisage the challenges ahead.

    In addition, ICANN community and organization staff planned and conducted workshops and roundtable discussions on a variety of topics such as the IANA transition, the new generic top-level domain (gTLD) Program, the role of noncommercial users in ICANN, law enforcement in the online world, and Asia and the next billion Internet users.

    So, what’s next?

    Geneva will host the 2017 IGF next December, and already discussions about strategic focus are underway. Holding the event in Geneva, the second home of the U.N. and to 192 government missions, may boost the participation of governments from developing countries and of non-U.S. businesses, both issues at Guadalajara.

    The IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) will meet early in the new year to determine the focus for the 2017 IGF. At the top of the agenda will be how to deal with the call made by many in Guadalajara for more attention to meeting the targets of the SDGs. No doubt, the MAG may want to concentrate on other issues like human rights and global trade accords.

    After all, the U.N. Human Rights Council meets in Geneva, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) is based there. Once the focus is set, preparatory work can begin for the Geneva IGF.

    All in all, 2017 will be an interesting year in furthering key goals in Internet governance.

     

    Picture credits: kvitlauk
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  • Innovation

    piggy-bank

    The road to inclusion in Europe is digital

    As increasing number of services and consumers go digital, the social and economic cost of financial exclusion is likely to increase exponentially if governments together with the private sector do not address this issue with speed. Encouragingly, positiv [read more]
    byAnn Cairns3 min read
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    As increasing number of services and consumers go digital, the social and economic cost of financial exclusion is likely to increase exponentially if governments together with the private sector do not address this issue with speed. Encouragingly, positive steps are being taken at EU and national levels.

     

    For too long financial inclusion has been considered an issue which mainly affects the developing world. In fact, according to recent Mastercard research, over 130 million people are unbanked or underbanked across Europe[1].

    When individuals and small businesses cannot participate in the financial system and as a result transact exclusively in cash, a significant amount of wealth is stored outside of the financial system, making credit scarce and expensive. Individuals and economic growth suffer.

    In Europe, the financially excluded are not always those we think they are. Mastercard’s The road to inclusion 2016 study found that more than one in eight of the financially excluded have lived in the same country all their lives. A third is employed full time and 35% are aged 18-34.

    As a socially responsible business, Mastercard recognises the role it can play in driving inclusive growth by addressing this challenge. Across the globe we are sharing our digital payments expertise with governments and others with the aim of reaching 500 million excluded people by 2020.

    This is key as access to technology via smartphones among the financially excluded has increased significantly from 29% to 49% over the past 3 years and interest in mobile banking has more than doubled over the same period.

    Business has a role to play, but governments must provide leadership. Encouragingly, steps are being taken at EU and national levels. In 2014, the EU adopted the Payment Accounts Directive, which aimed to achieve greater financial inclusion.

    This translated into the right to a basic bank account – which is to be enshrined in national law across Europe. Basic current accounts must be guaranteed for every person in Europe.

    By taking a lead on tackling exclusion and unlocking growth in this way, policy is likely to have a positive effect on people’s lives and government revenues.

    The global digital economy is flourishing, and it relies on electronic payments to enable businesses, governments and individuals to connect. However, as an increasing number of services and consumers go digital the social and economic cost of financial exclusion is likely to increase exponentially if governments together with the private sector do not address this issue with speed.

     

     

    PIcture credits: Low Jianwei
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  • Future of the Internet

    nextgen

    How the EU plans to shape the ‘Internet of tomorrow’

    The European Commission has recently launched an initiative on the Next Generation Internet, aiming at looking into the Internet of the future, its opportunities as well as challenges. Jesus Villasante from DG Connect explains what to expect from this ini [read more]
    byThe Digital Post5 min read
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    The European Commission has recently launched an initiative on the Next Generation Internet, aiming at looking into the Internet of the future, its opportunities as well as challenges. Jesus Villasante from DG Connect explains what to expect from this initiative.

     

    The Digital Post:  What are the main goals of the initiative? What is it about?

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    Jesus Villasante: The Internet has become essential in many aspects of our daily life, for work, education and leisure. The future Internet will be even more pervasive, working with and through many different devices and sensors, and will present completely new functions and characteristics. We have launched the Next Generation Internet Initiative because we believe it is the right time to take a fresh look, with a broad and inclusive perspective, involving from the beginning the various stakeholders: from research, technical and business communities to citizens and civil society.

    To help us establishing an initiative which has an impact on the evolution of the Internet, a number of preparatory measures have started:

    – an open consultation where people can tell us what they expect from the Internet of the future, running until 9 January 2017

    – in order to back up the consultation and provide additional information, we have created an open space for conversations, for additional information, background documents and other materials. This is also where we will launch additional discussions on those topics that raise most interest in the consultation, giving people the opportunity to provide more detailed contributions at a later stage.

    – a call for support actions has just been launched in the Horizon 2020 research programme (objective ICT-41). The aim is to identify specific research topics and to create an ecosystem of relevant stakeholders.

     

    TDP: What are the main concerns regarding the future of the Internet?

    JV: The Internet becomes more and more important for people and for every economic or societal activity. It creates new business opportunities and new ways for social interaction, from the local to the global scale. Many Internet developments have surpassed any expectations in terms of benefits for citizens and economy. And yet, there are some reasons for concern about further progress. For example citizens lack of control on their own personal data or restrictions on Internet access because of geographical, economic or cultural reasons. These are areas that we need to work on and improve the current situation.

     

    TDP: What are the further opportunities and benefits it could bring?

    JV: The future Internet should overcome the shortcomings of today’s Internet. It should provide better services, allow for greater involvement and stimulate participation of people in areas such as public life and decision-making. Only if the future Internet is designed for humans it can meet its full potential for society and economy.

    Just an example: today, many Europeans are still reluctant to do their financial transactions online. Fraud, data skimming or other security pitfalls make them hesitate. The Next Generation Internet Initiative should take a fresh look at this type of issues and offer new and reliable technological solutions. It should be designed for people, so that it can meet its full potential for society and economy and reflect the social and ethical values that we enjoy in our societies.

     

    TDP: What is the right approach the EU should take to shape the developments of the Net and not being left behind?

    JV: There are three crucial aspects:

    First of all, the scope of the Next Generation Internet Initiative should be multi-disciplinary. This means we should address various technological questions and topics, ranging from interoperability to broadband. Also, we need to use more the various technological opportunities arising from advances in research fields such as network architectures, software-defined infrastructures and augmented reality.

    Secondly, I think that whatever approach the EU takes, it needs to reflect the European social and ethical values: free, open and more interoperable, yet respecting privacy. Only when we are able to reflect these values on the Net, the future Internet can release its full potential and provide better services, more intelligence, greater involvement and participation.

    Last but not least, we should get more people on board for this initiative. There are 615 million Internet users in Europe and many more worldwide which need to have a say in this. The shape of the Next Generation Internet Initiative is not decided behind closed doors, on the contrary: we want to reach out to the brilliant minds with excellent ideas. It is them and that community that can help us to move forward with this ambitious initiative. Of course the evolution of the Internet will be a global endeavour, but Europe shall make a decisive contribution for a better Internet.

     

    Picture credits: Salvatore Vastano 
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  • Innovation

    thyssen

    Unleashing digital skills in the 4th industrial revolution

    Making sure that labour markets are fair and function properly today and tomorrow is at the heart of the debate that is taking place across Europe. To succeed in the transition towards a digitalised economy, we need to improve our skills systems. The wor [read more]
    byMarianne Thyssen3 min read
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    Making sure that labour markets are fair and function properly today and tomorrow is at the heart of the debate that is taking place across Europe. To succeed in the transition towards a digitalised economy, we need to improve our skills systems.

    The world of work is transforming. Across Europe, many fear that increasing automation and digitally-powered business models will destroy jobs and put workers in a race against machines.

    mt

    I believe however that digitalisation, if steered correctly towards our principle of social fairness, can be a force for better quality work, unleashing higher productivity and helping to finance more and better social security. Data shows that most of our workplaces have improved.

    Many jobs have become more interesting and engaging. And, the share of workers receiving paid training grew from 26% to 38% in 10 years. Of course, this is essential because during the same period, the share of workers who declare that they face complex tasks at work increased by a corresponding 50%.

    These additional opportunities are real – however, new forms of work can also be linked to lower and less predictable incomes. And while young people may be quick to embrace new flexible forms, they too – like the generations that came before – share the aspiration to progress towards stable careers and incomes that enable them to lead independent lives. We need to be alert to the risk of fragmented and unfair practices.

    An immediate risk is the gap between ‘great jobs’ and ‘lousy jobs’.  Automation and digitisation are likely to accelerate such polarisation.

    To address these divides, we need to make our labour markets places where workers and employers feel safe to take risks. We need to support smooth transitions on the labour market, whether from job to job, to self-employment or to further training.

    To succeed in transitions, we need to improve our skills systems. The Commission has put forward in the New Skills Agenda a proposal for better skills intelligence – understanding skills bottlenecks and anticipating needs, including through stronger business-education partnerships. Education needs to be more responsive to labour market needs.

    Moreover, the European Commission’s work on a “European Pillar of Social Rights” is an important contribution to addressing challenges of the digital economy by trying to anticipate and influence new trends.

    Is the European social model fit for purpose for the 21st century? And how can we make the European social model future-proof? Making sure that labour markets are fair and function properly today and tomorrow is at the heart of this debate that is taking place across Europe until the end of the year and I look forward to the European Young Innovators Forum’s contributions before I launch proposals next year!

    The article was initially published on www.unconvention.eu.

    Picture credits: Jan
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  • Data Economy

    umb3

    Why Privacy Shield is safe from legal challenges

    The Commission is convinced that the Privacy Shield lives up to the requirements set out by the European Court of Justice, says Christian Wigand, EC spokesperson for Justice. The Digital Post: Despite the reassuring statements of the European Commission [read more]
    byThe Digital Post5 min read
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    The Commission is convinced that the Privacy Shield lives up to the requirements set out by the European Court of Justice, says Christian Wigand, EC spokesperson for Justice.

    The Digital Post: Despite the reassuring statements of the European Commission, the new “Safe Harbour” does not seem out of danger. Is the Privacy Shield enough strong to resist any future attempt to challenge its legal legitimacy?

    Christian Wigand: As we have said from the beginning, the Commission is convinced that the Privacy Shield lives up to the requirements set out by the European Court of Justice, which have been the basis for the negotiations. We used the ECJ ruling as a “benchmark” in the final phase of the negotiations, let me explain how three key requirements have been addressed:

    – The European Court of Justice required limitations for access to personal data for national security purposes and the availability of independent oversight and redress mechanisms.

    The U.S. ruled out indiscriminate mass surveillance on the personal data transferred to the US under this arrangement and for the first time, has given written commitments in this respect to the EU. For complaints on possible access by national intelligence authorities, a new Ombudsperson will be set up, independent from the intelligence services.

    – The Court required a regular review of the adequacy decisions.

    There will be an annual joint review to regularly review the functioning of the arrangement, which will also include the issue of national security access.

    – The Court required that all individual complaints about the way U.S. companies process their personal data are investigated and resolved.

    There will be a number of ways to address complaints, starting with dispute resolution by the company and free of charge alternative dispute resolution solutions. Citizens can also go to the Data protection authorities who will work together with the Federal Trade Commission to ensure that complaints by EU citizens are investigated and resolved. If a case is not resolved by any of the other means, as a last resort there will be an arbitration mechanism. Redress possibility in the area of national security for EU citizens’ will be handled by an Ombudsman independent from the US intelligence services

     

    TDP: Three months ago French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and his German counterpart, Thomas de Maizière, called on the EU to adopt a law that would require apps companies to make encrypted messages available to law enforcement.  What is the official position of the Commission on this particular issue? Is the Commission working on a proposal?

    CW: Encryption is widely recognised as an essential tool for security and trust in open networks. It can play a crucial role, together with other measures, to protect information, including personal data, hence reducing the impact of data breaches and security incidents. However, the use of encryption should not prevent competent authorities from safeguarding important public interests in accordance with the procedures, conditions and safeguards set forth by law.

    The current Data Protection Directive (which also applies to the so-called over-the-top service providers such as WhatsApp or Skype) allows Member States to restrict the scope of certain data protection rights where necessary and proportionate to, for instance, safeguard national security, and the prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of criminal offences.
    The new General Data Protection Regulation (which will apply as from 25 May 2018) maintains these restrictions.

     

    TDP: According to a survey published recently by Dell most firms are unprepared for the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations less than 18 months before it enters into force. Are you worried about that?

    CW: To make the new data protection rules work in practice is a priority for us and we work closely with all stakeholders on that. The European Commission has set out a number of measures to make sure that companies operating in the European Union as well as national regulators will be ready for the new rules. There is work ongoing on all levels, with data protection authorities, industry representatives, data protection experts from Member States and of course national governments. For example, there are monthly meetings with Member States authorities on implementation. At the same time we are setting up a network between the Commission and national authorities to exchange information on the implementation of the Regulation and to share good practices.

     

    Picture credits: U.S. Army
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  • Data Economy

    old-2

    “Oh … but people don’t care about privacy”

    It wont be long before we look back and laugh at the way we approached privacy in the happy days of the web.   If only I had a penny for every time I’ve heard this aphorism! True, most typology studies out there as well as our own experience [read more]
    byNikolaos Laoutaris3 min read
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    It wont be long before we look back and laugh at the way we approached privacy in the happy days of the web.

     

    If only I had a penny for every time I’ve heard this aphorism!

    True, most typology studies out there as well as our own experiences verify that currently most of us act like the kids that rush to the table and grab the candy in the classic delayed gratification marshmallow experiment: convenience rules over our privacy concerns.

    But nothing is written in stone about this. Given enough information and some time to digest it, even greedy kids learn. Just take a look at some other things we didn’t use to care about.

     

    Airport security

    Never had the pleasure of walking directly into a plane without a security check but from what I hear there was a time that this was how it worked. You would show up at the airport with ticket at hand. The check-in assistant would verify that your name is on the list and check your id. Then you would just walk past the security officer and go directly to the boarding gate. Simple as that.

    Then came hijackers and ruined everything. Between 1968 and 1972, hijackers took over a commercial aircraft every other week, on average. So long with speedy boarding and farewell to smoking on planes 20 years later. If you want to get nostalgic, here you go:

     

    Smoking

    nl1

    Since we are in the topic of smoking and given that lots of privacy concerns are caused by personal data collection practices in online advertising I cannot avoid thinking of Betty and Don Draper with cigarettes at hand at work, in the car, or even at home with the kids.

    To be honest I don’t have to go as far as the Mad Men heroes to draw examples. I am pretty, pretty, pretty sure I’ve seen some of this in real life.

     

    Dangerous toys

    Where do I start here? I could list some of my own but they are nowhere near as fun as some that I discovered with a quick search around the web. Things like:

    – Glass blowing kit

    – Lead casting kit

    – Working electric power tools for kids

    – The kerosine train

    – Magic killer guns that impress, burn, or knock down your friends.

    nl2
    Power tools for junior

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Pictures are louder than words. Just take a look at The 8 Most Wildly Irresponsible Vintage Toys. Last in this list is the “Atomic Energy Lab” which brings us to:

     

    Recreational uses of radio active materials

    I love micro-mechanics and there’s nothing more lovable about it than mechanical watches. There is a magic in listening to the ticking sound of a mechanical movement while observing the seconds hand sweep smoothly above the dial. You can even do it the dark because modern watches use super luminova to illuminate watch dial markings and hands.

    But it was not always like that. Before super luminova watches used Tritium and before that … Radium.

    Swiss Military Watch Commander

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Radium watch hands under ultraviolet light

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I am stretching dangerously beyond my field here but from what I gather, Tritium, a radio-active material, needs to be handled very carefully. Radium is downright dangerous. I mean “you are going to die” dangerous. Just read a bit about what happened to the “Radium Girls” who used to apply radium on watch dials in an assembly line in the ’20s.

    Radium girls
    Radium girls

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    But we are not done yet. Remember the title of the section is “Recreational uses of radio active materials”. Watch dials are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s more of a useful than a recreational thing to be able to read the time in the dark (with some exceptions). Could society stomach the dangers for workers? Who knows? It doesn’t really matter because there are these other uses, that were truly recreational (in the beginning at least) for which I hope the answer is pretty clear. Here goes the list:Here

    – Radium chocolate
    – Radium water
    – Radium toothpaste
    – Radium spa

    Radium Schokolade
    Radium Schokolade

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Details and imagery at 9 Ways People Used Radium Before We Understood the Risks.

    Anyhow, I can go on for hours on this, talk about car safety belts, car seat headrests, balconies, furniture design etc but I think where I am getting at is clear: Societies evolve.

    It takes some time and some pain but they evolve. Especially in our time with the ease at which information spreads, they evolve fast. Mark my words, it wont be long before we look back and laugh at the way we approached privacy in the happy days of the web.

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    Credits: JOHN LLOYD

     

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  • Digital Single Market

    uccelli

    Confident digital consumers are good for business. And vice versa

    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 Higgins5 min read
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    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
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  • Data Economy

    cloud

    The EU data landscape: Striking the balance between regulation and innovation

    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 Zvarici4 min read
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    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
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  • Media

    nam

    What public broadcasters think of the Digital Single Market

    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 Post5 min read
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    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.

    Nicola Frank Head of European Affairs of the EBU
    Nicola Frank
    Head of European Affairs of the EBU

    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
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  • Innovation

    supercomputer

    Inside IBM Watson, a conversation with Paul Chong

    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 Post5 min read
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    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.

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