The Digital Post has spoken with Krzysztof Szubert, Polish Secretary of State in charge of Digital Single Market: There should be more clarity and organization in the way different European commissioners are involved in the digital files.
The Digital Post: You were appointed in march Secretary of State, responsible for international affairs at the Ministry of Digital Affairs in Poland. But you are not a politician.
Krzysztof Szubert: Indeed, I spent 20 years in business, running different types of ICT companies. So I am more of an expert in the field. Two years ago, I was asked by the government to join the team as strategic advisor to the Minister of Digital Affairs Mrs. Anna Streżynska to help implement a more project-oriented way of working.
We created a new ministry for digital affairs embarking more people with a business background so as to have a wider expertise within our administration, as well as in management – governance. In March, along with the post of secretary of state, I have also been appointed government plenipotentiary for the coordination of the Digital Single Market Strategy in Poland. In this capacity, I deal with different ministries in order to enable the nationwide implementation of the DSM.
TDP: What are the priorities of your government in Europe in terms of digital policies?
KS: We have been pushing through a large number of files. In Poland we are basically focused on: infrastructure, eGov, eSkills and Cybersecurity. On EU level it is more like: 5G, platforms, cyber and the most important free flow of (non-personal) data. For instance, together with 13 other countries, Poland urged the Commission to take action on free flow of data which resulted in the recent presentation of the free flow of data initiative.
We were quick to realise that it was difficult for us to focus on too many technological issues other countries were very active in and advance, such as the Internet of Things or autonomous vehicles. Therefore, we decided to concentrate our efforts on a fewer number of topics the most important of which is data economy.
Apart from the free flow of data initiative, we have been very active for instance in advocating for more freedom of data exchange in trade agreements. We have been leading the way in calling for the removal of protectionist measures that prevent our businesses from making the most of the opportunities of the data economy.
TDP: What about future actions?
KS: We are taking a step further. We want to show how important data are for our economy and what their real value in terms of GDP or Euro is. According to a study that our ministry commissioned, data-driven productivity accounts for 40% of total productivity and has a significant impact on GDP per capita.
Hence the importance of focusing on this field to reap the highest possible economic benefits. The economy in the future will depend more and more on data. In order to seize this opportunity, Europe has to prepare for this transformation. We want to lead the way in this work, but it is always good to remember that digital transformation – we are in front of – is about people, not technology.
TDP: Making the most of data economy is also a priority for the Digital Single Market strategy. Do you think the strategy is delivering? What are the main obstacles you see?
KS: I see two areas to work on. The first one is about coordination, both on the EU and member states level I believe there should be more clarity and organization in the way different commissioners are involved in the digital files and strategy in order to avoid confusion.
The second issue is about trust among member states: The good example is “digital” Like-Minded group of member states and I would strongly recommend others to join that informal group. We need more of it. In principle, all governments agree that we need to build a digital single market but when it comes to details they start disagreeing a lot.
I think we should come to terms with the idea that the DSM will provide varying benefits to our states, perhaps there will be winners next to losers in some areas. Nevertheless the long term benefits DSM can bring about for Europe will compensate for everything. Our governments are spending perhaps too much time discussing whether or not to act now. Other economies, the ones which we are competing with, such as China or the US, are not waiting for us to catch up with them.
TDP: What we are discussing a lot right now is the so-called web tax. What is your position?
KS: The idea came from Italy, Germany, France, Spain. Before we take a position we have to see the details first. We are not against this taxation but we made clear that we are against putting it through European models, such as the common corporate tax base (CCTB) and a common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB). We’d prefer to leave it to national level, through a sort of an equalization tax or an equalization levy, or to promote an action within the OECD framework.
Picture credits: Tim Parkinson
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: 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.