• 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 Post | 14/Sep/20165 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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  • Future of the Internet

    keys

    A “key” to reinforce the security of the Domain Name System

    With the rollover of the Root Zone Key Signing Key (KSK) ICANN is marking another important step to improve the security of the Domain Name System, i.e. Internet's address book. Here's the details.   ICANN today posted plans to update or "roll" t [read more]
    byDavid Conrad | 26/Jul/20165 min read
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    With the rollover of the Root Zone Key Signing Key (KSK) ICANN is marking another important step to improve the security of the Domain Name System, i.e. Internet’s address book. Here’s the details.

     

    ICANN today posted plans to update or “roll” the Root Zone Key Signing Key (KSK), marking another significant step in our ongoing efforts aimed at improving the security of the Domain Name System (DNS).

    The KSK rollover plans were developed by the Root Zone Management Partners: ICANN in its role as the IANA Functions Operator, Verisign acting as the Root Zone Maintainer, and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) as the Root Zone Administrator. The plans incorporate the March 2016 recommendations of the Root Zone KSK Rollover Design Team, after it sought and considered public comment on a proposed rollover process.

     

    What is the KSK?

    The KSK is a cryptographic public-private key pair that plays an important role in the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) protocol.

    The public portion of the key pair serves as the trusted starting point for DNSSEC validation, similar to how the root zone serves as the starting point for DNS resolution.

    The private portion of the KSK is used during the Root KSK Ceremonies to sign the Zone Signing Keys used by Verisign to DNSSEC-sign the root zone.

     

    Why Roll the KSK?

    Good security hygiene recommends passwords be changed periodically to reduce the risk that those passwords can be compromised via brute force attacks.

    As with passwords, the community has informed us that the cryptographic keys used to sign the root zone should be periodically changed to help maintain the integrity of the infrastructure that depends on those keys and ensure that security best practices are followed.

     

    The KSK Rollover Process

    Rolling the KSK involves creating a new cryptographic key pair that will be used in the DNSSEC validation process to verify that responses to queries for names in the root zone (typically TLDs) have not been altered in transit.

    Transitioning to that new key pair and retiring the current key pair is also part of the rollover process. Internet service providers, enterprise network operators, and others who have enabled DNSSEC validation must update their systems with the new public part of the KSK, known as the root’s “trust anchor.”

    Failure to do so will mean DNSSEC-enabled validators won’t be able to verify that DNS responses have not been tampered with, meaning those DNSSEC-validating resolvers will return an error response to all queries.

    Because this is the first time the root’s KSK key pair will be changed since it was generated in 2010, a coordinated effort is required across many in the Internet community to successfully ensure all relevant parties have the new public portion of the KSK and are aware of the key roll event.

    ICANN will be discussing the KSK rollover at various technical fora and using the hashtag #KeyRoll to aggregate content, provide updates, and address inquiries on social media. We have also created a special online resource page to keep people up to date with key roll activities.

    If the KSK rollover is smoothly completed, there will be no visible change for the end user. But as with pretty much any change on the Internet, there is a small chance that some software or systems will not be able to gracefully handle the changes.

    If complications become widespread, the Root Zone Management Partners may decide that the key roll needs to be reversed so the system can be brought back to a stable state. We have developed detailed plans that will enable us to back out of the key roll in such a circumstance.

     

    Timing

    The KSK rollover will take place in eight phases, which are expected to take about two years. The first phase is scheduled to begin in Q4 of 2016.

     

    Next Steps

    Developers of software supporting DNSSEC validation should ensure their product supports RFC 5011. If their products do, then the KSK will be updated automatically at the appropriate time.

    For software that does not conform to RFC 5011, or for software which is not configured to use it, the new trust anchor file can be manually updated.

    This file will be available here and should be retrieved before the resolver starts up and after the KSK is changed in the DNSKEY Resource Record Set (RRset) of the DNS root zone.

    ICANN has developed operational tests that software developers and operators of validating resolvers can access to evaluate whether their systems are prepared for the KSK rollover. You can learn more about these tests here.

    As the KSK rollover draws nearer, all interested parties can learn more and get updates at https://www.icann.org/kskroll. Please share this resource with others and encourage them to learn about these upcoming changes to the DNS.

     

     

    This post was originally published on ICANN website

    Picture credits: Mike
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  • Telecoms

    puzzle

    What’s still missing from the EU broadband plans

    Today, across Europe, we can find widespread consensus on the need to invest in high speed networks. However, there are some vital elements missing from the discussion: characterization of the technologies that will allow for such deployment, and ways t [read more]
    byMassimiliano Salini | 18/Jul/20163 min read
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    Today, across Europe, we can find widespread consensus on the need to invest in high speed networks. However, there are some vital elements missing from the discussion: characterization of the technologies that will allow for such deployment, and ways to achieve this.

    According to the World Economic Forum, the Internet-based business activity will reach 4.2 trillion dollars in the G-20 countries by 2016.

    The digital economy is growing faster (about 10% per year) compared to the economy as a whole, while in emerging markets it is growing at a rate of 12-25 % per year, with significant results in social and political terms, as well as economic impact.

    The digital challenge is also central for the European Union countries to stimulate inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

    The potential of the digital economy, the European single market, the Internet of things and the convergence between broadband and TV, can only be achieved if there is adequate digital infrastructure enabling speed in excess of 30 Mbps (Megabits per second).

    Next generation access networks are a general-purpose technology with the potential to trigger productivity gains on a massive scale.

    These gains might take years to accrue, because new applications and new organizational and production designs that use Next generation access networks need time to be developed.

    Nevertheless, we consider wide Next generation access infrastructure roll-out to be welfare enhancing and that it should therefore be an objective of the European Union. This is consistent with the view taken by the European Commission.

    The manner in which the transition to this next generation infrastructure is managed and encouraged will be crucial. Optical fiber is for sure a response to the need of durable, symmetric, reliable and easy to maintain technology.

    Today, across Europe, we can find a widespread consensus on the need to invest in ‘reliable, trustworthy, high speed and affordable networks and services’: the Digital Single Market Strategy and Juncker Plan are a powerful illustration of this consensus.

    However, there are some vital elements missing from the discussion: characterization of the technologies that will allow for such deployment, and ways to achieve this – all the more important at this point of time as the EU is building tomorrow’s infrastructure.

    More than one year after the Junker Plan entered into force, the projects on digital infrastructure are below the expectations. To promote investments the EC shall drive the innovation through a clear framework and better coordinating member states’ initiatives.

    Fibre has a number of benefits which other solutions cannot match. Apart from speed, we need to take the quality and durability of the network components and homogeneity of the network into account.

    Here, fibre outperforms everything else. The network should remain in place for decades and support several consecutive generations of active equipment and services.

    Fibre is the most future-proof option and progress in technologies such as bend-immunity and data compression can increase its active life even further.

    According to the Digital Agenda of the EU Commission, Europe needs competitively priced fast and ultra fast Internet access for all.

    In this regard, the EU is to establish next generation access networks. The Commission intends to use European funds in order to finance investment in broadband but at the same time shall encourage and coordinate MS ‘efforts and private initiatives.

    If Europe wants to benefit of all the advantages offered by the digital revolution, a reliable, trustworthy, high speed and affordable network is at the basis of the digital single market.

     

    Picture credits: Abby
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  • Digital Single Market

    warsaw

    How Poland plans to make the most of digital transformation

    The Digital Post talked to Krzysztof Szubert, Plenipotentiary of Minister for International Affairs and Strategic Advisor to the Minister, about Poland's ambitious plans to boost digital infrastructures and services.   The Digital Post: What are [read more]
    byThe Digital Post | 11/Jul/20165 min read
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    The Digital Post talked to Krzysztof Szubert, Plenipotentiary of Minister for International Affairs and Strategic Advisor to the Minister, about Poland’s ambitious plans to boost digital infrastructures and services.

     

    The Digital Post: What are the main priorities of Digital Poland?

    Krzysztof Szubert

    Krzysztof Szubert: Poland aspires to the group of leading EU coun­tries, thus we need to take an active political po­sition with regard to digital transformation of the state. We need to support the strategy for devel­oping the information society combined with ef­ficient coordination of this process. Having that in mind, we have decided with Minister Anna Strezynska, to develop up to 20-pages long document Strategic Action Priorities of the Minister of Digital Affairs”. It is based on 5 pillars and 18 actions.

    The five fundamental principles are: 1) the state should serve the citizen – thanks to digital technology the state should con­nect dispersed institutions and change com­plex procedures into consistent and simple services; 2) access to the public network and services must be safe for our data and all types of transactions conducted in the network; 3) in order to pursue e-administration targets, but above all, to achieve social and econom­ic goals, it is necessary to accelerate the de­velopment of modern telecommunications infrastructure; 4) development of the desired innovative econ­omy needs permanent and easy access to data gathered by public services and we need to constantly – regardless of age – improve our digital competences to effective­ly benefit from digitization and compete on the global market.

    We are very much aware that this is not cherry-picking as for those principles to bear fruit it is necessary to observe them all together while developing any strategic public service actions. We have put together as many as 18 of them and their wide variety ranges from having one gate to services, and across adopting standards of electronic circulation of documents down to being more effective in the EU or other international institutions so that we have a stronger say on the law that is shaped up there.

     

    TDP: How these plans could make the difference?

    KS: First of all, we do have the strategy in place to follow. Over the last many years it has been the chaotic way of development and making available of electronic public services that have limited access to them to very narrow groups of recipients with their in­teroperability being far from ideal.

    Each Polish citizen, organization and entre­preneur should be able to settle any official matter electronically while contacting any level of public administration. When we deliver that, “we will win”. What makes this strategy stand out from any previous attempts is that we really want not only the whole government participating but also wide support from all other stakeholders. The draft priorities had been available for public comment and we received huge input that finally became part of what we are implementing now.

     

    TDP: What are the highest challenges Poland is facing in terms of digital?

    KS: Lack of coordination as well as deficit of efficient project management of Polish administration di­rectly affect the quality of development of e-ad­ministration which is all about providing facilita­tions for citizens and entrepreneurs. It is necessary to urgently improve methods of implementation of innovative projects and create the main center coordinating their management. To support that, we think that heading towards the national CIO model seems to be the right step. Efficiency of public administration systems is one of the conditions for the stability of the state – we have to convince our citizen and business to relay on them and to use them.

     

    TDP: Do the Digital Single Market meet the expectations of Polish government? What are in your opinion the most important aspects of the strategy?

    KS: Digitization is, in fact, the transformation of the state, rather than merely buying systems and equipment. By using modern technologies, the state can become a service provider. It is to develop faster, become more friendly and support the needs of citizens, entrepreneurs, organizations and local governments.

    The DSM strategy in general is helping address those needs in many areas, but we have to be sure that it fits well into our specific market – that there is no place for one-size-fits-all. Digital Single Market requires efforts towards removing the real problems to the development of e-commerce within the EU. The main challenges the smart DSM will have to face are threefold: making sure the undertaken efforts put first the citizen, the consumer and the Internet user while adding as less as possible to regulatory burden for business with having single market benefits spread fairly equally among Member States.

     

    TDP: Will Brexit affect European digital policies?

    KS: As you may know, a broader vision of the digital single market (incl. digital policy) in the EU – supported by the Polish Government – is set out in works of the group of like-minded EU Member States which has recently been very active in making a strong consolidated voice heard in Brussels. There are 14 Member States including UK & Poland in it. We will continue to keep the same vision of building the solid foundation of the digital economy and moving the single market to the digital age without imposing new burdens on businesses.

    The UK has so far been an important part of that message, and I hope it will continue to be such and that we can even convince other countries to “join the club”. Poland is now leading the V4 (the Visegrad Group) and we will stick to that vision regardless of the UK being in or out of the European Union, as long as digital single market and digital policies are bringing benefits both to the citizens and to the business sector. Therefore, one of the priorities of the Minister of Digital Af­fairs will be pursuing active and determined poli­cy to reinforce our participation in developing the EU and international solutions and securing Po­land’s social and economic benefits.

     

    Picture credits: ArchiDju
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  • Digital Single Market

    doctor 3

    Eva Kaili: How eHealth will benefit from less digital barriers in the EU

    The eHealth sector within the digital single market is expected to be worth 20 billion and tens of thousands of jobs, explains Greek MEP Eva Kaili. The Digital Post: What the EU is currently doing to speed up the development and spread of eHealth servi [read more]
    byThe Digital Post | 28/Jun/20165 min read
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    The eHealth sector within the digital single market is expected to be worth 20 billion and tens of thousands of jobs, explains Greek MEP Eva Kaili.

    The Digital Post: What the EU is currently doing to speed up the development and spread of eHealth services?

    new logo-small

    Eva Kaili: Over the last years we have seen significant progress. There are many initiative at EU and national level, the most important of which is the EU eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020. The Digital Single Market also represents a huge step forward. Moreover, the EU is funding research and innovative initiatives in the field as well as helping SMEs operating in this sector.

     

    TDP: What are the main challenges for the further development of the ehealth technologies in Europe?

    EK: Different languages, different mentalities, different legislation, different taxation, different education systems: these are all big challenges that we have to face, because it is clear that the development of the sector depends on more coordination among the EU member states. For instance, we still have different accreditation and validation systems in each country. In addition, the digital divide that still runs between the EU states makes things more difficult. The EU action plan on eHealth addresses comprehensively these issues aiming at building a union in the field of eHealth by 2020. I think we are almost halfway. The opportunity is huge: the eHealth sector in the digital single market is expected to be worth 20 billion and tens of thousands of jobs.

     

    TDP: What further actions or policies should be taken at EU and national level?

    Eva

    EK: Overall, we need to go for smarter and flexible strategies which can be adapted to the peculiarities of very different countries. We cannot expect all member states to follow the same path at the same speed. I also think more has to be done on active aging as well as digital accessibility and digital literature. All these issues are fundamental to expand the reach and the adoption of eHealth tools among the population.

     

    TDP: Do you think the Digital Single Market strategy will deliver?

    EK: Yes, I think it can. We can already see the benefits of the efforts made in the last years towards a single digital market. Roaming fees, for instance, are about to disappear. Let me take another example in the field of eHealth. Thanks to eprescription you can have your medication in each country you go, just using your mobile phone.

     

    This is part of a series of interviews held during the conference 
    "Digital Single Market: Bridging the Gap" organized by 
    the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium.
    The event featured keynote speeches from Commissioner Oettinger
    Juhan Lepassaar and Robert Madelin (EPSC). 
    Other speakers included senior EU officials, parliamentarians, 
    trade bodies and business leaders who discussed the future challenges for 
    business in the areas of fintech, e-health and industry 4.0.
    

     

     

    Picture credits: Chuck Patch
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  • Innovation

    5846135878_39eea48e93_z

    A SAMBA for the European Inventor Award

    What are the best European inventions of 2016? A look at the eleventh edition of the European Inventor Awards organised by the European Patent Office. It is called SAMBA and it is an instant blood diagnostic test providing low-cost, fast and easy-to-read [read more]
    byAlberto D'Argenzio | 22/Jun/20165 min read
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    What are the best European inventions of 2016? A look at the eleventh edition of the European Inventor Awards organised by the European Patent Office.

    It is called SAMBA and it is an instant blood diagnostic test providing low-cost, fast and easy-to-read results and allowing for on-the-spot detection of infectious diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B and Chlamydia.

    This is the invention that allowed British blood researcher Helen Lee to win one of the five European Inventor Awards 2016, in the Popular Prize category.

    Launched by the European Patent Office in 2006, the Award has come to its eleventh edition, which was held on June 9th, 2016 at the MEO Arena in Lisbon, Portugal.

    “I called it SAMBA Test because engineers like to dance, but it is also a name that people like, and sticks in the head,” says Ms. Lee, gifted with a delicate yet determined look. A frivolous name for an invention already in use in many Sub-Saharan African countries, where it helps tracking some of the world’s deadliest diseases by facilitating the diagnosis and anticipating access to care for thousands of people.

     

    Together with Lee, the most voted finalist with 64% of the 56,000 opinions expressed online, the European Inventor Award in the SMEs category went to the Danish multidisciplinary team, formed by Tue Johannessen, Ulrich Quaade, Claus Hviid Christensen and Jens Kehlet Nørskov, who created a system to store ammonia that, through its solidification, is capable of reducing by 99% the emission of nitrogen monoxide from diesel engines, which causes over 75,000 deaths in Europe every year.

    The Award in the Research category went to the French neurosurgeon Alim-Louis Benabid, who invented a system for treating Parkinson’s symptoms, while the one in the Industry category was won by the Germans Bernhard Gleich and Jürgen Weizenecker, inventors of a scheme for medical analysis based on magnetic particles.

    The American engineer Robert Langer from MIT won the Non-European Countries category with its targeted anti-cancer medicines, while the Lifetime Achievement Award went to the German-Dutch engineer Anton van Zanten, who created the electronic stability system for cars that has been saving thousands of lives over the last few years.

    “Today’s award ceremony – said EPO President Benoît Battistelli – is a tribute to the spirit of innovation and the work of dedicated individuals who, through their inventions, advance the state of the art for all of us.”

     

    The contest involved five winners and fifteen finalists, who made it to the end of a selection that involved 400 inventions registered by the European Patent Office.

    “We select the best innovations in the medicine, environment, social and industry field,” explains Mario Polegato, CEO of Geox and Chairman of the Jury of the European Inventor Award, “and we do so to stimulate the matter of the patent and convey the message that through an idea we can build a both economic and social fortune.”

    “The first criteria we use – continues Polegato – is the originality of the innovation, then we assess how it can help people’s lives, not only in medicine field, but also in industry and environment. Finally, we try to determine what impact the innovation will have in the future.”

    An innovation that could be part of our lives is the paper transistor, conceived by a couple of Portuguese scientists, Elvira Fortunato and Rodrigo Martins, finalists yet not winners in the Research category of this year’s edition of the Award.

     

    “The paper transistor is simple and low-cost, a thousand times less expensive than silicon,” says Ms. Fortunato, the real inventor of the couple.

    “We realize it with a printer whose toner has been replaced by the zinc oxide, a transparent and edible product that can be found in sunscreens as well as creams for children.”

    The paper, being the insulating base of the transistor, passes in the printer, which imprints the zinc oxide that works both as conductor and semiconductor.

    “We have already signed contracts with packaging companies. It is a perfect invention for the electronics of things, to create boxes of medicines that blow a whistle if you do not take a pill at the scheduled day and time, to build food containers that change colour if the product has gone bad, even before the due date, or print newspapers with graphical charts that move like in a video. Since these transistors can be digested, they might be part of the electronics of people in the future as well.” This invention did not win today, but it may have a brilliant future ahead of it.

     

    photo credits: Jessica Lucia
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  • Media

    15931055938_47fb326b53_z

    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?

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    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

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    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

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    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?

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    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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