• Future of the Internet

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

    The European Commission has recently launched an initiative on the Next Generation Internet, aiming at looking into the Internet of the future, its opportunities as well as challenges. Jesus Villasante from DG Connect explains what to expect from this ini [read more]
    byThe Digital Post | 14/Dec/20165 min read
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    The European Commission has recently launched an initiative on the Next Generation Internet, aiming at looking into the Internet of the future, its opportunities as well as challenges. Jesus Villasante from DG Connect explains what to expect from this initiative.

     

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

    jesus-villasante-300x300

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

     

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

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

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

     

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

    JV: There are three crucial aspects:

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

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

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

     

    Picture credits: Salvatore Vastano 
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  • Data Economy

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

    In the context of the 7th annual EuroCloud Forum, which takes place from 5-6 October in Bucharest, Romania, Elena Zvarici, executive board member of EuroCloud Europe, talks about how Europe can take advantage of cloud computing and the data economy. In o [read more]
    byElena Zvarici | 30/Sep/20164 min read
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    In the context of the 7th annual EuroCloud Forum, which takes place from 5-6 October in Bucharest, Romania, Elena Zvarici, executive board member of EuroCloud Europe, talks about how Europe can take advantage of cloud computing and the data economy.

    In order for Europe to take full advantage of cloud computing and the data economy, we need to strike the right balance between regulation and innovation

    In the digital world the balancing act between business and regulation is a delicate one. In the past year we have seen the adoption of the new European General Data Protection Regulation, the invalidation of the Safe Harbour agreement for transatlantic data transfers and problematic discussions around its replacement the Privacy Shield.

    Setting these developments into the context of the many ongoing initiatives at EU level aimed at encouraging innovation and the data economy, it is clear that getting the balance right is no easy task.

    Europe is leading the way in data privacy and advocates a high level of data protection worldwide. The newly adopted General Data Protection Regulation introduces a new concept of responsibility towards data ownership, as well as new legal obligations for businesses to comply. For cloud SMEs and start-ups, getting up to speed can be problematic and they will need help.

    A coordinated approach is needed between data protection authorities, policy makers and industry, in order to help organizations in this transition, by providing adequate data breach reporting tools, compliance toolkits and publicising the key issues. Let’s make sure that European SMEs and start-ups, so often the drivers of growth in Europe, are well placed to comply.

    While the GDPR provides a high level of data protection we must remember that we are ever more connected through digital means and cannot think solely in terms of Europe. We are global users and exporters of digital services and need to have a strong cloud computing and data economy to be competitive. International data flows will play a key part in this. To avoid regulation clashes and to create international data-driven markets, in the future we should strive towards the creation of uniform, accepted standards of personal data protection on a global basis.

    The recent agreement on the Privacy Shield for EU-US data transfers did not come a moment too soon and will hopefully bring the much needed legal certainty for the approximately 4,000 businesses who made use of the safe harbour mechanism. This legal assurance is vital. Many of these companies will rely on global information exchanges. Let’s hope that the provisions in the Privacy Shield can provide a robust enough framework to encourage data flows while providing high standards of data protection.

    Global data flows are vital to international trade and economic growth and the European Commission Initiative on the free flow of data, expected at the end of 2016, should aim to enable European companies, particularly in the growing cloud computing sector, to be in the forefront of the global innovation race.

    The Initiative should aim to reinforce the European cloud sector, so that companies are encouraged to develop new innovative services in the cloud, sell their services cross-border and enter the global market as exporters of technology.

    This can be done by providing clarity on issues such as data ownership, liability arising from data use and data localisation across Europe.

    If we really want to position Europe as a global leader in the data economy we need to ensure that we get the balance right. This means ensuring high levels of privacy while fostering new business innovation in sectors that rely on data and developing trust and confidence among users, from the individual consumer to the public and private sector.

    Now is the time to move forward and encourage Europe to reap the benefits of data and the cloud.

     

    Picture credits: Roberto Sartori
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  • Media

    What public broadcasters think of the Digital Single Market

    Even though ‘traditional’ public service TV and radio remain very popular, we want to consolidate the important role public service media has to play in the digital environment, says Nicola Frank, Head of European Affairs of the EBU. Here's her opinio [read more]
    byThe Digital Post | 28/Sep/20165 min read
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    Even though ‘traditional’ public service TV and radio remain very popular, we want to consolidate the important role public service media has to play in the digital environment, says Nicola Frank, Head of European Affairs of the EBU. Here’s her opinion on the main legislative proposals of the Digital Single Market strategy.

     

    The Digital Post: What are the priority issues for EBU on the EU digital policy agenda?

    Nicola Frank: Digital Single Market policies are crucial because they will impact the way programmes are licensed, distributed and presented to viewers. We want to make sure that our content reaches citizens on all devices, which calls for licensing tools which are fit for the digital environment as well as rules ensuring that all relevant networks carry our programmes, and significant platforms and interfaces display our services prominently to users.  This is very important for cultural diversity and media pluralism.

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

    The way citizens access TV and radio programmes has evolved extremely fast in recent years. Even though ‘traditional’ public service TV and radio remain very popular – reaching 59% and 44% of Europeans respectively every week – we want to consolidate the important role public service media has to play in the digital environment. This is very much at the heart of EBU members’ strategies today.

    As part of its digital strategy, the EU already made a very important step towards effective net neutrality. Now we need to build on this first important stepping stone with the recent proposals on the audiovisual media services directive, the telecoms review and the copyright proposals.

     

    TDP: What are the challenges for broadcasters in the recent telecoms review? 

    NF: From our perspective, the Telecoms review will impact the way our programmes are distributed on the various electronic communication networks – Digital Terrestrial Television, satellite, cable and IPTV. There is an opportunity within this review to strengthen the tools Member States have at their disposal to ensure that public service media programmes can be accessed on all key networks and on various devices. For example, ‘must-carry rules’ should be updated to match the fact that there are more means to distribute programmes and more on offer today, in particular interactive and on-demand services.

     

    TDP: The copyright proposal has been criticised by many in Brussels and you are one of the few being quite positive, why is this?

    NF: Yes, the proposal for a Regulation on broadcasters’ online content has caused quite an interesting reaction. Having analysed the proposal, we believe the Commission’s plans represent a balanced licensing solution. Effective licensing mechanisms are essential because assembling and distributing programmes implies that public service media organizations navigate through complex negotiations to obtain all the necessary licenses.

    The proposal confirms contractual freedom and is in line with territoriality, principles which are at the very heart of the content-funding model. It should however be possible, for example, for Europeans who reside outside their homeland to access programmes from back home when they go online. When broadcasters wish to make a programme available across borders, then there should be adequate licensing tools out there to turn this will into a reality.

     

    TDP: As part of the copyright discussions, broadcasters regularly mention the Satellite and Cable Directive. Where does that fit in?

    NF: The Satellite and Cable Directive of 1993 is an interesting model because it has unlocked access to broadcasters’ programmes across borders on satellite and cable networks. It introduced effective licensing mechanisms for satellite transmissions and retransmissions on cable networks, which have shown that territoriality can co-exist with the Internal Market. For example, the Italian public channel RAI 1 is available in 20 EU Member States via cable with the exception of certain premium content, and those of us living here in Brussels can watch Sherlock on the BBC on Belgian cable without any problem. Around 1500 free-to-air satellite channels without encryption are available across Europe.

     

    TDP: How are public broadcasters impacted by the proposals to update the AVMS Directive published earlier this year? From your point of you, how could the proposal be improved?

    NF: The AVMS Directive covers subjects which are of major importance for public service media:  informed citizenship, the protection of minors from harmful content and the promotion of European and domestic programmes to name but a few. They represent fundamental objectives for European audiovisual media policies. But what has changed is how these objectives are met in the digital environment.

    The audiovisual media services Directive should be updated to ensure that valuable content for society is prominently displayed and easily accessed where citizens go to get audiovisual programmes in today’s digital environment. We want our contribution to society to be effective in this rapidly-evolving audiovisual landscape: we offer impartial and diverse information, a gateway to European content – over 80% of our EBU members’ airtime – and safe, informative spaces for users, especially minors.

    Facilitating access to our members’ programmes is all the more important because powerful and VOD and OTT providers’ impact on the individual viewers’ choice and consumption is growing steadily. The Audiovisual media services Directive needs to give Member States the possibility to address access and appropriate prominence of public service media programmes.

    The role of video-sharing platforms and social media also needs to be examined. Obviously, you cannot regulate them like audiovisual media service providers who exercise editorial responsibility. But there needs to be a basic set of rules to protect minors and tackle hate speech because of the importance of these platforms in the digital environment, in particular for younger audiences.

     

    Picture credits: Pierre Metivier
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  • Telecoms

    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

    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?

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    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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  • Media

    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

    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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  • Innovation

    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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  • Telecoms

    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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  • Startup Economy

    To the ‘Point’: A talk with Minut co-founder Marcus Ljungblad

    One of the most remarkable crowd-fuding stories of the last years comes from Sweden. The Digital Post talks with Minut co-founder Marcus Ljungblad about how his project Point made a splash on Kickstarter.   The Digital Post: Behind “Point“ [read more]
    byThe Digital Post | 12/Apr/20164 min read
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    One of the most remarkable crowd-fuding stories of the last years comes from Sweden. The Digital Post talks with Minut co-founder Marcus Ljungblad about how his project Point made a splash on Kickstarter.

     

    The Digital Post: Behind “Point“ there is an outstanding crowd-funding story. Tell us more.

    Marcus Ljungblad: Although we founders, Nils Mattisson, Martin Lööf, Fredrik Ahlberg and I are all from Sweden, we actually started out in Shenzhen, China. By the time we arrived in China we had put together a working prototype of a connected fire alarm. But no first prototype survives contact with  user testing.

    Marcus

    On the ground in Shenzhen, we were able to utilise the enormous eco-system to rapidly prototype and test different ideas—those who survived ultimately lead to Point. We knew we were on to something when, during a customer interview, the customer asked to buy one of the products then and there.

    At that time we didn’t even know if it could be mass produced, let alone had we given Point its name. Fast-forward a couple of weeks and we launched on Kickstarter.

    Over the next 30 days we raised almost 5x our goal and had received customers from every continent all across the world.

    After the crowdfunding campaign ended we headed back directly to Shenzhen to get to establish the supply-chains we needed and to get Point to production. Today we are shipping our first batch, which is all sold out, to more than 2000 customers and we are a week from producing the second batch.

     

    The Digital Post: What is Point about? How does it work?

    ML: As apartment owners ourselves we felt there is a disconnect between us and our homes when we weren’t there. How can I know everything is OK at home when I’m away? Point is camera-free option to stay informed about the important things when you are away.

    Did my fire alarm go off? Has there been unexpected noise? Or, if I rent out my home, how do I know that no one is smoking inside or staying quiet during late hours? Point uses a range of sensors and combines a lot environment data to inform users when something is amiss.

    Everything is computed on Point, so no sensitive information ever leaves your home. It’s dead-simple to install and is designed to blend-in into any home. 

     

    The Digital Post: What should be improved in Europe to help young startups?

    ML: Make it easier to offer shares and options to the earliest employees in the company. It is not only the founders who contribute to a company’s success, your first hires and are equally important and you want to reward them accordingly. While starting out, however, it is often expensive to compensate on salary only.

    Shares and options offers a way to reward your employees if the company does well. A reward they are rightly entitled to! We’d love to see governments in Europe make it easier for startup founders to share their success with their employees.

     

    The Digital Post: Can Europe match the success of Silicon Valley and Shenzen? What should be the ingredients?

    ML: The aim should not be to compete with Silicon Valley or Shenzhen, these are unique ecosystems and they are extremely good at what they do already. Rather, Europe as a whole, should spend its energy doing what it does best: nurturing companies that start global from day one.

    Sweden is an important market for us. Users are connected and it has an tech friendly culture. But it is too small on it’s own. If we want to truly affect users relationships with their homes we need to look beyond Sweden.The EU should continue to focus on lowering the barriers to entry to other European markets.

    Soon every new company will be ready to take on the much larger, and much much more diverse, global market. And it can do so faster than it’s American and Chinese counterparts. Europe is small, diverse and open, we should use that to our advantage to compete—not to become another Silicon Valley or Shenzhen.

     

    Photos Credit: Iwan Gabovitchhttps
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  • A conversation with

    “Duty of care” for platforms could shake Internet freedoms

    European Commission's alleged plans to impose monitoring obligations ("duty of care") on online platforms would undermine the Internet as a platform open to posting and sharing content, argues Jens-Henrik Jeppesen, Representative and Director for European [read more]
    byThe Digital Post | 13/Jan/20165 min read
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    European Commission’s alleged plans to impose monitoring obligations (“duty of care”) on online platforms would undermine the Internet as a platform open to posting and sharing content, argues Jens-Henrik Jeppesen, Representative and Director for European Affairs at the Center for Democracy and Technology  (CDT).

     

    The Digital Post: The European Commission’s consultation on the role of online platforms hints at expanding the liability of intermediaries as regards illegal content hosted online. What exactly the Commission has in mind?

    Jens-Henrik Jeppesen: We do not know exactly what the Commission has in mind. In its various recent policy statements the Commission has only hinted at the prospect of changing the current rules.

    This is the case, both in the Digital Single Market Communication from May 2015, the DSM Platforms Consultation that has just finished (see CDT response here) and in the 9 December Copyright Communication.

    In the latter document, the Commission says that it will consider options for amending the IP Enforcement Directive. It also notes that the platforms consultation raises the option of ’take down and stay down’.

    Effectively this can only mean introduction of a general monitoring obligation on intermediaries, which is not allowed under the E-Commerce Directive. We want to preserve this protection.

     

    TDP: What might be the general implications of these obligations, were it introduced?

    JHJ: As we explain in various of our statements and documents, a monitoring obligation if it were to be introduced, would require intermediaries of all kinds to police, screen and filter for content that might be argued by some to be illegal.

    This could be anything from alleged hate speech, defamation, radicalising content, or copyright infringement. It is often a difficult, delicate and highly subjective evaluation to make.

    It would undermine the Internet as we know it as a platform open to posting and sharing of blogs, comments, podcasts, pictures and all kinds of material because any hosting platform would have to first ensure that whatever is posted/shared cannot be judged to be illegal.

    The incentives for intermediaries would be to be overly restrictive to avoid expensive legal challenges and lawsuits. The consequence would without a doubt be to severely restrict free expression and debate on the Internet.

    It would also impose massive costs and risks on start up Internet companies – exactly the type of enterprise European politicians would like to see grow and scale.

     

    TDP: How, then, to ensure “greater responsibility” from online intermediaries without resorting to new legal obligations?

    JHJ: First of all, the current rules (the E-Commerce Directive) rightly shield intermediaries from liability – but only if they take action once notified about illegal content on their networks. So, an intermediary cannot simply ignore notification that illegal content has been published on their network or platform.

    If it does not act on a notice, it will lose its liability protection. That is already a strong incentive for intermediaries to act swiftly when notified about illegal content. Further, most intermediaries enforce their own terms of service.

    Most social networks give users the possibility to flag content and comments that they consider to be illegal or against terms of service (for example, racist or anti-Semitic comments).

    The same applies to content that violates copyright. There are also various agreements to ‘follow-the-money’, i.e. make it difficult for websites that systematically offer pirated content on a commercial scale to operate.

    There is for example an memorandum of understanding between trademark owners and online trading services to stop trading in counterfeit goods, illegal medicines and the like.

     

    TDP: The Centre for Democracy and Technology has also voiced doubts regarding the way the Commission is using the notion of “online platforms”. Why?

    JHJ: As we explain in our platforms consultation response, the platforms definition is so broad that it captures so many types of companies in different industries that it becomes meaningless.

    Furthermore, these companies are already subject to consumer rules, competition rules, data protection law etc., no matter whether they operate wholly or partly or not at all online.

    It is not clear that it makes sense to create a new category of company to which particular regulation applies. Technology and business models evolve rapidly, and laws should not be drafted for specific technologies or business models.

     

    photo credits: James Lavin
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