• Media

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    Inside the AVMSD revision. Should Netflix & Co. be worried?

    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
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    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
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  • Digital Single Market

    Mastercard

    Ann Cairns: How we are leveraging digital technology for financial inclusion

    On the sidelines of the European Business Summit The Digital Post met Ann Cairns, MasterCard's President of International Markets, to discuss how digital technologies are making a difference in fighting the exclusion from financial services.   Th [read more]
    byThe Digital Post | 13/Jun/20168 min read
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    On the sidelines of the European Business Summit The Digital Post met Ann Cairns, MasterCard’s President of International Markets, to discuss how digital technologies are making a difference in fighting the exclusion from financial services.

     

    The Digital Post: What are the main activities or initiatives on financial inclusion which MasterCard has launched?

    Ann-Cairns-200x200

    Ann Cairns: At MasterCard, we are committed to reaching people previously excluded from financial services and as part of this we have pledged to reach 500 million new consumers worldwide by 2020.

    This means providing solutions that allow them to participate in the formal financial system. We have made good progress. And we fundamentally believe that technology, fintech and electronic payments are powerful tools to ensure we achieve that goal.

    We have many initiatives worldwide, including several in emerging economies.  For example, we have a partnership with the Social Security Agency in South Africa to issue 10 million biometric enabled social security Debit MasterCard cards.

    The key feature of these cards is that the biometric functionality enables the Social Security Agency to ensure only qualifying grant recipients collect the grants.

    A landmark public-private collaboration with the Egyptian government we announced last year aims at financially including 54 million citizens.

    We worked with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Ministry of Finance and the Egyptian Banking Corporation to roll out a digital ID programme that link citizens’ national ID to the existing national mobile money platform.

    Financial exclusion is not just an issue in countries with emerging economies, it is a big challenge for many Europeans as well. There are many parts in Europe where vast parts of the population simply have no access or do not use formal financial services.

    MasterCard commissioned a 10 -market online survey to understand European consumers’ perceptions of financial and digital inclusion, through the lens of gender inclusion.

    The results of the survey showed that while almost half of consumers in Europe feel that there is a somewhat high or high level of financial inclusion in their country, less than one in four (22%) agree that Europe is the most financially and digitally (24%) inclusive region in the world.

    MasterCard has partnered with many public authorities to launch systems to encourage financial inclusion. For example, we helped the London Borough of Brent to develop a new prepaid card programme for social benefits. The scheme ensures the money is being used by the right people and provides cost savings to the Council and consumers.

     

    TDP: How can we leverage digital technology for financial inclusion?

    AC: We see the future moving in the direction of the Internet of Things.  As we made progress with financial inclusion we started to see that digital identity was actually something that was being used by governments around the world to roll out and register people, and also to include them in society. This is how we started to see inclusion as much broader than just financial inclusion and how it encompasses digital and gender.

    Innovation is a key element for moving to a digitally inclusive society: MasterCard fully supports innovation and entering of new payment methods. The key to achieving inclusion lies in digital payment programmes. In order to deliver on consumers’ and merchants’ expectations for ever better ways of connecting the two MasterCard is continuously looking into new technologies and opportunities that can make that happen.

    Public authorities also have a huge role to play. By switching their payments, be it social disbursements, salary payments or any other kind of payments onto electronic platforms, they can not only gain efficiencies for themselves but also make a significant contribution to bringing people into the financial mainstream.

    Mobile payment platforms have also served as an opportunity to incorporate more individuals into the formal, existing financial system. While many people still do not have access to a bank account, more than 1 in 3 people in the world (2.6 billion) will be using smartphones within the next two years. And mobile phone and tablet users will be making almost 200 billion transactions annually by 2019[1].

    For example, earlier this year MasterCard ‘s HomeSend venture expanded its agreement with the Vodafone Group for M-Pesa – the mobile phone service which allows people with no bank account to send and receive money, top up their phone and enjoy other services all through their mobile phones. Globally, M-Pesa now reaches 25.3 million users (including users in Europe, for example in Romania and Albania).

     

    TDP: MasterCard has just published a new study on financial inclusion. What are its main findings?

    AC: MasterCard commissioned a 10 -market online survey to understand European consumers’ perceptions of financial and digital inclusion, through the lens of gender inclusion.

    The results of the survey showed that while almost half of consumers in Europe feel that there is a somewhat high or high level of financial inclusion in their country, less than one in four (22%) agree that Europe is the most financially and digitally (24%) inclusive region in the world.

    Other key findings include:

    –  Fewer than half of Europeans (49%) believe there is a high level of financial inclusion in their country.

    –  The vast majority of Europeans (79%) believe men have a higher degree of financial and digital inclusion than women.

    –  88% of respondents stated equal opportunities for Europeans in terms of access to financial and digital products, irrespective of gender, are vital for an open and inclusive society, but only 66% agree they have equal access themselves.

    The results demonstrated that, in general, digital and financial inclusion were experiencing a very similar perception issue. So as the EU looks to build a true digital single market in Europe in which people can interact and transact cross-border as seamlessly as in their own country, we need to focus on tearing down the real barriers and ensure that everyone can reap the benefits of a more inclusive world. The Digital Single Market needs to be built with the consumer or end-user in mind.

     

    TDP: Digital inclusion is still an issue also in several EU countries. Do you see governments committing enough to fixing the problem?

    AC: What we see is that the perception of digital inclusion is comparable to inclusive growth. We believe that digital exclusion usually triggers or is triggered by other kinds of exclusion, such as financial or gender exclusion. The assumption that financial exclusion and in turn digital exclusion is a problem solely in developing economies alone could not be further from the truth. We found that roughly 90 million people in Western Europe are still underserved.[2]

    If we look at Europe – the European Commission has done some great work on financial inclusion in recent years. The EU Payments Account Directive was adopted in 2014 and provides for the right for all EU citizens to open a payment account that allows them to perform essential operations, such as receiving their salary, pensions and allowances or payment of utility bills etc.

    With the Digital Single Market Strategy, the Commission is promoting technology and digital throughout the EU. As I referred to when speaking at the European Business Summit earlier this month, what is important is that inclusiveness is embedded into all digital policy initiatives. We need to ensure that the Digital Single Market is built with the citizen’s needs in mind so that it adds value to him or her.

    From MasterCard’s experience, the increased engagement of government helps drive greater expansion of financial inclusion. For example, in the UK, we are working with many local authorities who are now issuing welfare payments through pre-paid cards.

    Some of them have gone entirely cashless and processing all disbursements (e.g. welfare payments, child benefit, asylum seekers, etc.) electronically. Through these initiatives, citizens now have quicker and more secure access to their benefits. Meanwhile, we are seeing how the authorities themselves are enjoying significant savings thanks to increased efficiencies.

     

    TDP: How can the private sector help public institutions or cooperate with them on expanding digital literacy as well as digital skills?

    AC: The private sector is at the forefront of driving financial inclusion. But obviously we cannot do this alone: Public authorities have a crucial role to play. The Commission has recently consulted on various initiatives and published some very interesting proposals in areas such as e-government for example.

    We welcome the Commission’s emphasis on public private cooperation as this is an area where MasterCard is very active and where we partner frequently with public institutions.[3] The best example is the work around social disbursements onto prepaid cards.

    Although the UK is one of the more advanced markets when it comes to promoting electronic payments for government expenditure, other countries are also making good progress.

    In Italy, for example, we work with the national postal service to provide a simpler and more transparent tax collection system. We rolled-out new electronic payment terminals to help millions of Italians pay their taxes in the post office in a fast and safe way. In general, the benefits of going more digital are obvious.

     

    ((1] Juniper Research – Mobile commerce transactions to approach 200bn by 2019: http://www.juniperresearch.com/press/press-releases/mobile-commerce-transactions-to-approach-200bn-by
    [2] New Financial Inclusion Study Spotlights Europe’s Financially Excluded, Press release available: http://newsroom.mastercard.com/press-releases/new-financial-inclusion-study-spotlights-europes-financially-excluded/
    [3] For more information on our e-government activities: http://newsroom.mastercard.com/eu/photos/mastercard-government-services-and-solutions/

     

     

    Picture Credits: John Ragai
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  • Digital Single Market

    15852209184_7f35b5e285_z

    How public libraries promote digital inclusion

    In its “New Skills Agenda for Europe”, the European Commission outlines the need to spread digital skills and fight digital exclusion and acknowledges the important contribution of public libraries. In one year, 4.6 million Europeans accessed the inte [read more]
    byIlona Kish | 10/Jun/20166 min read
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    In its “New Skills Agenda for Europe”, the European Commission outlines the need to spread digital skills and fight digital exclusion and acknowledges the important contribution of public libraries. In one year, 4.6 million Europeans accessed the internet for the first time at their public library and 2.3 million people attended digital literacy courses in libraries.

    What does it mean to be digitally literate? The European Commission has its indicators: starting from browsing, searching and filtering information, to protecting personal data and coding. From the growing need for digital skills in the workplace, to benefiting from a range of services such as e-government and online banking, a baseline of digital skills is vital to full participation in modern society.

    The danger is that with the digital revolution, we risk leaving many people behind. Nearly half of the EU has insufficient digital skills and nearly one in five people has never used the internet.

    Older people and marginalised groups are especially at risk of digital exclusion. But the issue of digital illiteracy is also systemic in education; only 30% of students in the EU can be considered as digitally competent.

    This is clearly a challenge for formal education systems. To meet this challenge, institutions like public libraries have an important role to play. There are 65,000 public libraries in the EU and 100 million people visit them every year.

    Public libraries are not just a place to read and borrow books; they are a network of open spaces where people supplement their formal education, working on their digital skills and undertaking a huge range of other educational activities.

    The data backs this up. In one year:

    • 4.6 million Europeans accessed the internet for the first time at their public library

    • 250,000 Europeans found a job thanks to internet access at a public library

    • 2.3 million people attended digital literacy courses in libraries

    The European Commission launched yesterday A New Skills Agenda for Europe,  outlining how a boost in skills could help to tackle some of Europe’s greatest social and economic challenges. A “Skills Guarantee” has been announced to help people who are long-term unemployed get back to work, and a “Skills Tool Kit for Third Country Nationals” will be rolled out to help refugees and other migrants integrate into new communities.

    An additional important element of the New Skills Agenda is the “Digital Skills for Europe” initiative, to boost the public’s competencies online and meet the objective of a European Digital Single Market.

    We need to address digital skills in schools. However, in order to reach the widest group of people possible, we must also empower non-formal learning institutions. The vital role of public libraries as free-to-access community hubs comes into particular focus when it comes to the inclusion of hard-to-reach and vulnerable groups in policies to promote education and skills.

    For example, Bozhidar Tchergarov, a blind Master’s student in Bulgaria, used his public library to learn how to use a computer and continues to attend library-run ICT training courses today. Or Filippo Gruni, a digital entrepreneur in Italy who has created a makerspace in his public library to improve the digital skills of his community.

    As acknowledged by the Commission’s proposal to the Council on the Skills Guarantee, strengthening skills in Europe “should be encouraged to involve a broad range of actors, social partners, education and training providers, employers, intermediary and sectorial organisations, local and regional economic actors, employment, social and community services, libraries, civil society organisations.”

    It is great to see the European Commission recognising the fantastic work being done to improve skills at public libraries across Europe. If you are interested in learning more about the role of libraries in digital skills development, visit us during the next EU Code Week (18-20 October) at the European Parliament, where Public Libraries 2020 will host an interactive exhibition on how Europe’s public libraries are meeting the digital age.

     

     

    Picture credits: Eric Drost

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  • Innovation

    15558334957_1b79fa6a49_z

    Robert Madelin: We are at work to fix Europe’s innovation problems

    Europe can still be a rather bumpy landscape for innovators, although innovators should learn to market better their achievements, argues Robert Madelin, Senior Adviser for innovation within the European Commission and former Director General at DG Connec [read more]
    byThe Digital Post | 08/Jun/20165 min read
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    Europe can still be a rather bumpy landscape for innovators, although innovators should learn to market better their achievements, argues Robert Madelin, Senior Adviser for innovation within the European Commission and former Director General at DG Connect.

     

    The Digital Post: What are the major challenges facing the DSM strategy?

    Robert Madelin: The Strategy itself identifies several challenges under its 16 actions. It’s also clear that some of the changes brought in by the Strategy will imply winners and losers. The main political challenge is whether we are ready to accept this because we care enough about improving our society.

     

    TDP: Do you think the strategy is enough future-proof? new logo-small

    RM: We have entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a period where everything is changing and evolving so fast that it is difficult to grasp what’s next. Under these circumstances, the successful strategies should go to the basics. The Digital Single Market strategy is precisely future-proof in this sense, since nobody knows what the future is. Delivering infrastructure, capacity, industrial transformations, skills awareness, cyber security while investing enough in research into Quantum, Big Data and 5G: This is a good portfolio effort. But it’s impossible to avoid taking risks in a period of big change. The Digital Single Market Strategy take such risks and it is likely that some of its actions will fail.

     

    TDP: On 1st September 2015 you were appointed senior adviser for innovation within the European Commission. Jean-Claude Juncker tasked you with drafting a policy review on innovation in Europe. What can you tell about this report?

    RM: I think the missing piece is often the recognition that research is a component of European innovation and competitiveness. Let me put this in figures: less than one euro in five spent by European companies on innovation is poured into research. Moreover, in some areas we don’t have a positive conversation about innovation. At European level we don’t have a conversation at all. What we have, instead, is little pockets of reaction to disruptive innovation.

    This resistance to innovation may be legitimate or not, but it is difficult to act on it if we don’t have a proper debate. That’s why Europe can still be a rather bumpy landscape for innovators and that’s the problem we have to fix. The report should be released by the end of June.

     

    TDP: So are you saying that Europe is not a positive environment for innovators?

    RM: Let’s talk first about the environment in the world. In 2015 the communications firm Edelman carried out an extensive survey on innovation by interviewing tens of thousands people in a hundred countries.

    What came out is that two out of three respondents understand that innovation is good for growth and jobs, but only one out of three think that innovation is doing something good for the planet as well as for their communities and families.

    I believe this proves that innovators are marketing their intentions and achievements very poorly and that’s not true only in Europe. The same survey tells us that Europeans want innovation to primarily look at issues such as health, family, community, environment. The two things fit together.

    Everybody wants innovations, and wants innovation to benefit the areas they care about. Therefore, the vision underlying the European approach to innovation is right: ‘responsible innovation’ is a key concept within our research programme Horizon 2020. That’s the theory. As far as the execution is concerned, we are beginning to learn.

    Coming to your question, is the atmosphere positive for innovators? Not yet. Can it get better? Yes. Do we understand how to? I think so. Are we working on it? Yes.

     

    TDP: Let’s switch to the telecom sector. What do you think should be the priorities of the upcoming review of the telecom framework?

    robert_madelin

    RM: The reason to have a telecoms framework is systemic empty competitive mechanisms in the market. Now we have to revisit how far that’s a problem. We’ve already narrowed enormously the number of markets to which the regime applies.

    The second question to ask is to what extent we need a framework. We still do because telecoms it’s a network industry. But how do we tune the framework to ensure the best possible supply of infrastructure? That’s a big problem that we haven’t fixed yet.

    Of course, everybody has different views on the best answer to this. My personal view, having been for five years Director General of DG CONNECT at the European Commission, is that the theory of the ladder of investment doesn’t reach to fiber to the home.

    If it doesn’t work, we need to apply another theory: Which means we might need to either invest more public money or structure differently the market in order to generate very high speed connectivity investment.

     

    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: Dennis Skley
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  • Data Economy

    balkan

    Why we can’t afford another legal blow to EU-US data flows

    If Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) suffer the same fate as Safe Harbour then transferring data to the US will in practice become almost impossible, further threatening to balkanize the Internet and to undermine international trade.   Eight mo [read more]
    byJohn Higgins | 31/May/20165 min read
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    If Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) suffer the same fate as Safe Harbour then transferring data to the US will in practice become almost impossible, further threatening to balkanize the Internet and to undermine international trade.

     

    Eight months ago the Financial Times warned in an editorial that a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to invalidate Safe Harbour, a commonly used legal mechanism for transferring data to the US, threatened to balkanize the Internet and undermine international trade.

    That threat deepened sharply last week when Ireland’s top data protection authority, the Irish Data Protection Commission, announced it would refer another legal mechanism, Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) to the courts too.

    After Safe Harbour was invalidated companies that need to transfer data as part of their day-to-day activities scrambled to find other legal methods to allow them to continue. One such method is the Standard Contractual Clause.

    If SCCs suffer the same fate as Safe Harbour then transferring data to the US will in practice become almost impossible.

    But it’s not just transatlantic data flows that are being called into question. Companies use SCCs to transfer data all over the world.

    If Europe’s courts conclude that SCCs are no safer than Safe Harbour this could effectively cut Europe out of the emerging global data economy, and that would hurt companies from almost every corner of the economy – not just the tech sector.

    Global data flows are vital to international trade. Forcing companies to store their data within Europe will have serious implications for Europe’s economic prospects.

    As the European Data Protection Supervisor, Giovanni Buttarelli himself said last week, it is unreasonable to ask companies to reinvent their practises all the time.

    I would urge Europe’s data protection authorities to stop shifting the legal goal posts for international data transfers and to wait until Safe Harbour’s intended replacement, the Privacy Shield, has been given a chance to work.

    The Privacy Shield, with its Ombudsperson role, would address the key concerns about EU citizens’ potential exposure to unwarranted surveillance by US security agencies.

    Privacy activists have dismissed the Privacy Shield before it’s even been given a chance to work. Jumping to a negative conclusion when so much is at stake seems rather reckless.

    Right now we need more legal certainty, not less. Give Privacy Shield a chance. If necessary make fixes once it’s in place but don’t throw companies into a legal black hole by closing down all options for international data transfers.

     

    Picture credits: Devin Poolman
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  • Telecoms

    telephone

    Dominique Leroy: Let telecoms operators speak with one voice in Europe

    The way the telecoms industry is represented in Europe is still too weak and fragmented, says Proximus CEO Dominique Leroy in a conversation with The Digital Post on the sidelines of the iMinds annual conference. Her main suggestion for the revision of th [read more]
    byThe Digital Post | 27/May/20166 min read
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    The way the telecoms industry is represented in Europe is still too weak and fragmented, says Proximus CEO Dominique Leroy in a conversation with The Digital Post on the sidelines of the iMinds annual conference. Her main suggestion for the revision of the telecom framework: more regulatory focus on services than technology.

    The Digital Post: Let’s start from Internet of Things. Proximus is the first operator in Belgium, and one of the first in Europe, that launched a network for Internet of Things. What is it about?

    Dominique Leroy: Historically, telecoms were always about connecting people. More and more in the future, they will also play a key role in connecting things. Against this background, what we did is not so much building a simple network, but setting up a whole end-to-end ecosystem to enable the Internet of Things. We are providing enterprises, consumers as well as developers an end-to-end system equipped with sensors and based on LoRa networks, a long-range and low-power type of networks that connects sensors without SIM cards.

    The purpose is to get small packets of data from the sensors through the LoRa networks and store them in our data centers on a platform called MyThings, where we already provide data analytics. The idea is then to open the platform to developers so that they can develop new applications. There are certain domains where we would like to go all the way up to creating applications, mainly in the mobility field, where we think that we can really bring an added value through Internet of Things.

    So as you see, the Internet of Things opens up a whole new ecosystem. It is more than a utility provided by telcos. We want to offer solutions, partnerships, we are opening up to other players and therefore we are creating innovation. We are also one of the first companies in the sector moving in this direction.

    TDP: Privacy and security are two big challenges for the IoT. What is your view?iMinds_0

    DL: That’s probably where telco operators have a real added value considering their knowhow: We already provide end-to-end security over our infrastructures, from your phone to the applications you use, all the way to our datacentres. This expertise is very important for tomorrow’s connectivity in cars, home automation and health. LoRa networks come already with a triple encryption key. They secure the sensor identification, the payload and the network. In general, when it comes to using certification, identification and authorization technologies I believe that is where we provide a lot of added value.

    TDP: How do you see telecoms operators capitalizing on the Internet of Things in, say, five years from now?

    DL:  Data consumption today is driven mainly by millions of people connecting with each other. Data consumption will increase dramatically in the coming years as billions of connected devices go on-line. This new reality will create huge volumes of data traffic.  IoT will thus become an important piece of the telcos ecosystems, leading to more investment in infrastructures, stimulating more innovation, value, and opportunities for new revenue streams and profit.

    TDP: The European commission is working on new proposals to implement greater coordination at European level of radio-spectrum policies. Unfortunately, in the past similar legislative moves were met with strong scepticism from member states. Why this time should be different?

    DL: I don’t think member states want to give to Europe their powers on spectrum policy. But they very much understand that if they want to develop a coherent European digital market, there needs to be some coordination. The repurposing of 700 MHz for Wireless Broadband Services should be done within a certain timeframe all over Europe, otherwise it wouldn’t work. If tomorrow we need much higher frequency bandwidth, for instance to be able to develop 5G and self-driving cars, some sort of European coordination is essential to get there.

    Moreover, a more consistent policy all over Europe should be applied to the length of licenses. These actions are all feasible, and I think member states will in a way or another agree that’s the right path. However, what they won’t allow is that the EU decide on the prices for the spectrum. In any case, I think that we have an opportunity to have more coordination in terms of timing of the auctions and duration of spectrum licenses.

    TDP: What should be the main priorities of the forthcoming proposal on the revision of the EU telecoms framework?

    DL

    DL: We definitely need less regulation to be able to catch up with more competitive markets. In the last 20 years, Europe has been very effective in overseeing the liberalization of the industry securing a high level of competition. However, today if you look at the big players in the industry, either they come from America, or more and more from Asia. Regulation is certainly one of the root causes of not having strong European digital players.

    So, let’s make sure that we deregulate as much as possible, and let competition drive investments and spur innovation. Levelling the playing field is also another important aspect. It is not acceptable anymore that telcos are subjected to obligations on, say, privacy, data usage, or interoperability that are not applying to players operating the same services. The problem today is that regulation is focusing too much on technology and not on services, which produce lot of inconsistencies between cable, telecom, OTT operators providing the same services. So my recipe could be summarized in three elements: less regulation, more level playing field, more regulatory focus on services than technology.

    TDP: A word on the increasingly tough stance of Margrethe Vestager on Mergers & Acquisitions?

    DL: I think we as an industry need to articulate better what we want, what are the risks of preventing telcos from growing in scale, and what is acceptable and what not. We are not very well-structured and every too often we shy away from speaking with one voice. That also explains why it is easier for regulators to take their own direction: we do not make enough efforts to be listened. We can blame regulators or politicians but I think we should also look at ourselves and see how we can be more united to defend our industry. The way we are represented in Europe is still too weak and fragmented.

     

     

    Picture credits: Matt Brajlih
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  • Media

    Pravda2

    What Facebook can learn from video games and press ethics

    Facebook newsroom should take a page from the accumulated experience in hundreds of years of press ethics, and a couple of decades of video games. Its first move should be to be transparent about its news algorithm and its priorities. The tech community [read more]
    byPer Strömbäck | 25/May/20167 min read
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    Facebook newsroom should take a page from the accumulated experience in hundreds of years of press ethics, and a couple of decades of video games. Its first move should be to be transparent about its news algorithm and its priorities.

    The tech community loves to make up laws to describe certain phenomena, such as Moore’s law which predicts growth in computer power and the perhaps more humoristic Godwin’s law which says that any online discussion long enough will end up with one comparing the other to Hitler.

    But in order to understand the digital world, probably the most important of these laws would be Metcalfe’s law.

    It says that the value of a network increases with the square of the number of members (or nodes), which by extension means that the price of staying outside the network increases with every new member.

    This can be good news, for auctions or advert listings it’s convenient to have it all in one place. The downside is of course that it spawns very powerful dominant niche players (cue Vestager vs Google).

    No business knows better how to game Metcalfe’s law than Facebook. With some 1,6 Billion users, the point where anyone realistically can opt-out has been passed long ago.

    Far from the naïve place of birthday greetings and flirty pokes it may have once been, Facebook today is more like an operating system for interaction far beyond the social life: marketers use it to build hype and businesses to interact with customers, but also dictators use it to spread propaganda and terrorist organisatons to distribute beheading videos.

    It cannot be easy to be Mark Zuckerberg: one day your service is believed to bring democracy to the Middle East through its sheer existence, the next you have to travel to Germany to make apologies for Nazi hate speech.

    If you’re a global service, you face the problem of different rules in different jurisdictions. So far, Silicon Valley has successfully played the “safe harbour” card, saying they can’t control what users post. (If all else fails, play the algorithm card – as in “we don’t really know what it does”!).

    This is not really saying “we take no responsibility” but rather a way to make their own rules. Convenient for businesses, problem is other people may disagree. And the deeper you get involved in a culture, the more difficult it gets to surf above the clouds.

    These trends come together as Facebook’s power over the news becomes more evident.

    Depending on what Facebook decides to show in its users’ feeds, it wields a lot of influence over the digital public sphere. The current debate about Facebook’s alleged anti-conservative bias hints at a much bigger issue.

    When we ask “how can we know if the gravitation toward anti-Trump stories is a result of user preference or algorithm settings?”, we’re really asking questions such as: What rules and principles apply to Facebook’s news feed algorithm? Who is the editor in charge? Does Facebook subscribe to normal press ethics such as verifying stories with more than one source and hearing both sides of an issue?

    Such basic things that are taught at every journalism school, developed over decades, centuries even, of free press. Systems of self-regulatory ethics bodies continuously evaluate and evolve these learnings, tweaking which publishing decisions are criticised and which are not.

    The details of the formal systems may vary from country to country, but the principles are the same and around them is a living conversation in the professional journalist community about when to publish a story and when not to, balancing the interests of privacy (for example of crime victims) and the public’s right to information.

    It is tempting to arrive at the conclusion that the internet users should be better advised and not share hoax stories and be sceptic of the sources, but that is the easy way out.

    If journalists with years of education and the ethics of the professional community to draw from find these decisions difficult enough to deserve seminars, ethics committees, even specialist magazines and radio shows, how could we ever expect the average social media user to take such a responsibility?

    The answer will always be that the organisation that delivers the news is responsible for the content. Mass distribution with no editorial responsibility is a recipe for disaster.

    In 2012 in Gothenburg, Sweden, teenagers’ use of social media for sexual bullying and hate speech spiralled out of control and led to beatings and even street fights in what became known as the “Instagram riots”.

    When The Pirate Bay posted autopsy photographs from a court case involving two children who had been murdered with a hammer, much to the horror of the Swedish public and not least the victims’ family, its spokesperson claimed the photographs were on public record and therefore could be distributed without limitation.

    With normal press ethics, neither of these events would have happened. Editors would have stopped them.

    When Wikileaks released diplomatic cables and military files, it exposed horrible abuse but also made public the names of local Western sympathisers, putting them at risk of vengeance from insurgents.

    Edward Snowden learned from this and wisely released his leaks through established news outlets. The recent Panama papers leak is an even better example of responsible journalism, where hundreds of journalists worked together on the material before anything was made public.

    But how can a service like Facebook use any of this?

    It’s their users who post and share the material after all, not Facebook itself. The algorithm aside, Facebook could also learn from video games.

    That’s right, many games offer both discussion forums, user generated content and in-game chat channels. As games companies try to keep a good atmosphere, avoid hate speech and sexism, as a game becomes popular it quickly becomes impossible for the game company to monitor all the content and understand all languages.

    Also the normal functions such as reporting abuse and blocking users are often not enough and can themselves be abused. Instead, many game companies give to selected users moderator privileges, delegating the editorial responsibilities to trusted players. (In fact, this is the same model Google applies to its trouble-shooting forums where users help other users.)

    The beauty is that it can scale infinitely, even with Billions of users. Facebook probably cannot simply copy that model, but it can use it for its newsroom service.

    In traditional media, pluralism is perhaps the most important vaccine against media bias. With plenty of different publications available, there is always another view available. It is no coincidence the Soviet regime preferred to have only one news publication: Pravda (“The Truth” in Russian).

    With the mechanics of Metcalfe’s law, pluralism online becomes a challenge.

    As Facebook benefits particularly from that phenomenon, it has an even greater responsibility to uphold pluralism on its platform. It could start by looking at what has worked for the press and for video games.

    But its first move should be to be transparent about its news algorithm and its priorities. After all, Facebook asks complete transparency of its users.

     

    Picture credits: forzadagro
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  • Digital Single Market

    16269020388_4894bc18c5_z

    Brian Ager: Digital Single Market needs faster implementation

    The Digital Single Market strategy is a step in the right direction but the Commission must speed up its implementation, says Brian Ager, secretary-general of the European Roundtable of Industrialists. The Digital Post: What is your general opinion about [read more]
    byThe Digital Post | 20/May/20163 min read
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    The Digital Single Market strategy is a step in the right direction but the Commission must speed up its implementation, says Brian Ager, secretary-general of the European Roundtable of Industrialists.

    The Digital Post: What is your general opinion about the Digital Single Market Strategy?

    Brian Ager: We thought that it was an important first step to get everybody behind a common approach, and I believe it was a good move. I think it’s important to get an orientation, to get it out there and see what the reactions are.

    new logo-small

    TDP: Do you think this strategy is enough business-friendly? Can it provide a sufficient conducive investment climate that will help Europe catch up with other markets in the digital sector?

    BA: Only time will tell. To be fair, a few legislative proposals have been already presented. But for the rest, the Strategy is only a piece of paper that in itself is worthless: it’s what flows from that that will matter. It is now important that the Strategy is translated into a series of policy measures that are the right ones. Are they going to be implemented effectively? And are they going to be implemented in a coherent way across the whole of the Union? If you can tick those boxes, then you’re likely to see investment flow. But the Strategy in itself it doesn’t. Well, it is better to say that it will not automatically lead to investment.

    TDP: Do you think that the Strategy may lead to over-regulation?

    BA: I think it’s a possibility. But this must not happen, if we’re serious about digital economy, because if it does, then you strangle the digital potential of the whole continent. Another matter of concern is that the implementation is too slow.

    TDP: A number of observers from outside Europe pointed out that Europe is using a punitive approach towards US internet success stories or internet companies. Some are even talking about “digital protectionism”.

    BA: The Internet economy is global by definition: if you want to seize its opportunities you need to take a global approach for a global market. I can’t see how Europe could be protectionist, it wouldn’t work anyway.

    TDP: What do you think of the European Commission’s plan on Industry 4.0?

    BA: Our first reaction is that overall the plan is a good step in the right direction. But I can’t help but notice that it was presented almost one year since the digital single market strategy was unveiled. We need to speed up the entire process.

    BA

    TDP: Many fear that Industry 4.0 will be a huge job killer.

    BA: I don’t think it’s so much doom and gloom. We feel clearly it will lead to some job losses, but it should also lead to the creation of other jobs, because you’re switching the economy from one type of activity to another. To be sure, the development of Industry 4.0 will lead to a switch from more low-skilled jobs to more high-skilled jobs. This change brings us to another crucial point, that is the responsiveness of the education systems. An extra effort is needed to drive our students towards math, technology and science-related studies, including math, physics, engineering and computer science. Today the industry complains that it’s missing half a million ICT engineers, software engineers, even mainstream engineering. The problem can be addressed only if we start working from the basic education. As far as the exiting work employment is concerned, we need to think very hard about vocational training, lifelong learning, re-skilling, because things are going to come along faster and faster.

     

    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: Matt

     

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  • Innovation

    giustizia

    What is going on with Google, EU and Italy?

    With its Statement of Objections against Google on Android, the European Commission is rightly exercising its role as guardian of fair competition. Now it's time for Member states to put in place a coordinated effort at EU level on the taxation of big tec [read more]
    byMassimiliano Salini | 17/May/20163 min read
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    With its Statement of Objections against Google on Android, the European Commission is rightly exercising its role as guardian of fair competition. Now it’s time for Member states to put in place a coordinated effort at EU level on the taxation of big tech companies.

     

    “The European Union has the duty to ensure freedom of competition”, only by doing this we can “ensure the innovation that is necessary to the growth of our economy”.

    These words from EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager lay out a basic principle that the Union has a responsibility to protect.

    Fair competition and consumer protection translate into lower prices and greater choice for all EU citizens. In addition, they provide the basis for the creation of a single digital market in which European entrepreneurship can prosper.

    To give just two examples: the cost of phone calls in Europe has been reduced considerably compared to ten years ago; and families and business are now able to freely choose their electricity and gas supplier.

    On April 20, the EU published a Statement of Objections against Google in which it claimed that its “Internet search”, mobile operating system (Android) and app store management practices were contrary to European competition law.

    Commissioner Vestager accused the US giant of promoting its products at the expense of its competitors, forcing smartphone producers willing to install the Android operating system to also install Google’s apps.

    This despite the US company’s claim that “Android is an open-source operating system based on open innovation”.

    In the past, the Union has been a strong guardian of fair competition, as in the two cases involving Microsoft (condemned for the lack of free choice related to its web browser and abuse of dominant position) and Intel (sanctioned in 2014 due to its market monopoly in a model of popular processors).

    Given Google’s dominant position, it will be necessary to identify structural remedies, as happened in the past with telecom companies, Microsoft, and other players in similar conditions. We enjoy the results of these remedies every day, with these markets now fully competitive.

    The EU must ensure pluralism in the market so that it can establish a fair level of competition. Only if the rules are the same for everyone will it be possible to give birth to large technology companies.

    The new technologies field is particularly complex and delicate: its huge opportunities must be accompanied by major investments in research and technology.

    Google covers approximately 90% of the smartphone operating system’s market thanks to Android.

    Consequently, it can also dominate the app and online search markets (the two are crucial for advertising sales) as well as the market for videos thanks to Youtube.

    This massive presence means the Mountain View-based company holds the largest share of the online advertising market.

    Thinking about the incredible numbers that all this produces, we must also address the issue of the relation between large hi-tech companies and European tax agencies.

    We are awaiting a European tax regulation: in the meantime, individual States are moving in a random order.

    Google will pay the British treasury a £130 million bill in back taxes, a value that many analysts consider to be too low bearing in mind the amount owed since 2005. France has chosen a different path, seeking as much as €1.6 billion from Google in unpaid taxes.

    What about Italy? Amidst disputes between tax authorities and the judiciary, as well as agreements rejected by the company, the government’s position remains unclear.

     

    Picture credits: David Macchi
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  • Digital Single Market

    conne 2

    Emma McClarkin: Aiming for a balanced approach to cross-border portability

    As the regulation on cross-border portability goes through the European Parliament, MEP Emma McClarkin explains why it is important that the new legislation strike a balance between the needs of market, consumers and the creative industry. How the Eu [read more]
    byThe Digital Post | 13/May/20165 min read
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    As the regulation on cross-border portability goes through the European Parliament, MEP Emma McClarkin explains why it is important that the new legislation strike a balance between the needs of market, consumers and the creative industry.

    How the European Parliament is expected to approach the legislation on cross-border portability?

     

    What are the main elements to shape a balanced legislation?

    What are the positions to emerge in the JURI and IMCO committee of the European Parliament?

    How the proposal should define the scope of cross-border utilisation?

    What is your opinion on the wider debate over the reform of the EU copyright framework?

     

     

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