Posted on 23/Feb/2015
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European efforts to create a Digital Single Market mean much more than the usual work on finalisation of legislation. A comprehensive approach is needed to understand and unleash the benefits of a truly connected continent.

The key question today is to understand the scale and the real impact of the digital revolution. The internet is a general purpose technology, as few inventions in the history have been and like those of Gutenberg or Bell, has completely changed the world.

We need to use an holistic approach to understand the different aspects of the forthcoming digital challenges, so that we can build tools that will allow us to fully exploit and benefit from new technologies.

The impact of the creation of the European single market has been crucial on many areas. The process of building the single market itself has provided already valuable lessons to the European economy. Notably the resulting common set of rules that simplified the legal framework for business and consumers alike.

The digital single market adds value through the digital drivers that are present in all sectors of the economy.

Today, we are not only seeing a massive development of the ICT sector – we are also experiencing the spread of “ICT development” in all sectors and all branches of the economy. The benefit and value this spread brings, is a result of the growing number of digital factors found in the economy today.

Those digital factors create new opportunities.

First, the contribution of a new phenomenon: data processing that fuels the data driven economy. This changes the way we manufacture, increases the productivity, provides new ways of allocation of resources, improves energy and transport efficiency, supports the smart cities development and lays the basis of a future of internet of things.

The result is that we are confronted with a completely new economic reality. It extends from the “connected car sector” delivering various types of content – via the neutral platforms model, (defined as collection of goods and services provided in a fair way) – to the “app economy”, enabling everyday decisions of users while influencing their environment and the economic landscape.

This new reality is leading us to a new model of products and services; consumer oriented, aiming to meet our expectations, our needs. So the phenomenon of the personalisation emerges. Everything can be personalised, tailor made to our individual taste. But very often the trade off is disclosing the knowledge of our habits, our needs and eventually giving up privacy.

Therefore we are faced with the conflicting realities this new economic landscape presents. On one hand, disclosures that contribute towards the profiling of individual behavior as the means to monetise privacy and on the other our will to defend “the digital I”.

This is the reason why we need to have a data and privacy protection regulation in place, where trust is fundamental for the new digital economy.

Only by ensuring more trust we can build the right framework for the growth of new kinds of public services: the m-health in healthcare; new forms of teaching and dissemination of MOOCs influence in education; access to open data and public knowledge; and as far as the cultural activities are concerned, access to more opportunities thanks to the new European copyright rules, related to the authors and clearer definitions of the public domains.

Hence is obvious, that Big Data development, personalisation of products and services, data protection and digital security are relying on internet access and the framework for global connectivity.

The connectivity is the other great opportunity and challenge as it needs to serve the previously mentioned services and the ever growing number of connected devices. It is evident the need for investments in the area of infrastructure tailored to these future requirements of a digital, fully connected economy.

This translates into considering systemic, structural incentives for European operators to complete their work on 4G networks while beginning the preparation for next generation 5G infrastructure.

The internet is changing all aspects of our life: from the economic to the social and private. It redefines our position as consumers, as producers, as workers and as citizens.

A new concept of citizenship is taking shape, opening new possibilities for participatory democracy, by enabling online consultations, rendering the decision making processes more transparent and making the citizens a valuable source of knowledge for the public authorities.

This new model of shared democracy is a good foundation for the shared economy. Moving forwards towards its implementation, by developing further the internet, its governance and its infrastructure, we should not forget the dark aspects it also brings.

As the virtual aspects, values and principles of the internet are crossing over to the real world, we should highlight the interconnections that these form related to: the clear rule of law, the respect for fundamental rights, the transparent tools for law enforcement.

The digital era is challenging us. The new is the added value of the paradigm shift.

We have a unique opportunity to move from open, creative minds to open societies and via the open governments to an open, much more collaborative economy with new competitive advantages.

But it requires the awareness that European efforts to create the Digital Single Market mean now significantly more than the usual work on finalisation of legislation. “More” means an holistic approach that will allow this digital package to provide comprehensive results and benefits.

The way for the paradigm shift is: from a new technology to a new socio-economic model of development.

 

photo credits: Dan Foy