An inclusive and social Europe that promotes participation and builds trust
Digital transformation has the power to reduce inequalities across Europe. But doing so relies on empowering everyone – irrespective of their income, education, age or gender – and it requires harmonised action and greater collaboration across all players.
Today more than a third of people without formal education end up falling out of the digital wagon and there are 4 times more ICT specialists that are men than women. This represents a social as well as an economic loss to the EU and meaningful steps must be taken to promote accessibility and diversity in the digital sector. The EU must act to increase the engagement of women in tech as well as encourage further inclusion for people with disabilities to better represent the wider population within the digital sector. This social inclusion must be achieved through both effective legislation as well as educational programmes for our citizens.
By 2025, 6% of working women should be ICT specialists
Reinforcing the accessibility of products and services is a common goal of both the ICT sector and the European Union (EU). An efficient implementation of the European Accessibility Act, a key new EU Directive, will ensure a better implementation of the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It will also support the ICT industry in its ongoing mission to act as an enabler of the social, economic and political inclusion of people with disabilities. To further advance accessibility and enable the ICT industry to reach an even higher level of accessibility of its products and services, we call on the European Commission to:
- Draft and release standardisation requests (‘mandates’) in a timely manner, to ensure that European Standardisation Organisations have enough time to draft standards and industry has sufficient time to implement them.
- Provide guidance to Member States during the transposition of the European Accessibility Act into national law to encourage a coherent European legal framework, with only limited national disparities. To avoid legal uncertainty for economic operators, Market Surveillance Authorities need to exchange information to harmonise their practices and make their enforcement activities proportionate to the specificities of accessibility.
Technology solutions, especially Artificial Intelligence (AI) need to be developed in unbiased and inclusive ways to ensure that they reflect society at large. More diverse and demographically representative participation of programmers, AI experts and designers, will help realise this goal. According to Eurostat, fewer than two in ten ICT specialists’ jobs in Europe are held by women. Typically, girls do as well as or outperform boys in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) classwork, but their interest in STEM subjects starts to wane by the age of 15. Therefore, more emphasis should be put on gender equality in the ICT sector. It is important that children are exposed to technology at early ages, when they can develop digital skills and spark interest in STEM subjects. Combining learning technology with female role models is crucial in encouraging girls to pursue further studies and careers in STEM. Concretely, we ask European leaders to:
- Develop educational programmes that inspire young girls to study ICT and STEM subjects.
The digital skills gap slows down Europe’s growth and hampers competitiveness and innovation capacity. Unemployment remains high in the EU while there is an expectation of 900 000 unfilled positions requiring digital skills in the EU by 2020. Boosting the digital skills of the European workforce to match the needs of companies today and in the future, will ensure that companies in Europe (IT and ICT using/driven sectors) can remain competitive and grow. Member States profit from European Union coordinated action that acts upon increased innovation and employability, modernising education and training systems through the diverse portfolio of EU funds and programmes. The support is reaching tens of thousands of local, regional, national and Europe-wide projects, and millions of Europeans. EU funds and programmes can make a difference, but more needs to be done in helping Europeans acquire digital skills.
According to Eurostat, in 2017 around 43% of the EU labour force did not have even basic digital skills, and only one in five of companies reported having provided training to develop or upgrade ICT skills of their personnel. SMEs typically struggle to invest in human resources while the large and/or multinational enterprises build learning plans and training budgets. Due to their limited resources, SMEs will always lag behind in terms of talent retention and development. Therefore, much emphasis should be put into helping SME’s employees get proper training even at the expense of state aid rules. We therefore call upon European leaders to:
- Exclude SMEs from state aid rigor in the area of education and training for their employees. The state aid exemption should not exclude, but rather reinforce or complement, the existing national tax exemption rules or national fund schemes for companies supporting their employees in continuous training efforts.
By 2025, all enterprises in Europe should be providing ICT training to 30% of their employees
The digital age requires digital education. For more than 10 years, traditional understanding of literacy also includes a set of digital skills and media competences required in a knowledge-based economy and society. Mandatory education that foresees both using digital equipment in classrooms and instructional practice that makes effective use of technology helps children in becoming technology consumers and digital creators. As digital skills are transversal skills needed in life and work, 20 European countries have already integrated programming or computational thinking in their curricula, as a way to also boost other competences such as problem solving, logical thinking and creativity. The education curricula modernisation needs to also go beyond primary and secondary education. There is a great need for curricula modernisation at vocational training, university and adult learning levels. We therefore call on European leaders to:
- Ensure a greater presence of the digital sector in tertiary and adult education to fuel the digital labour sector faster with the skills required by digital employers.
- Modernise national education curricula embracing digital education, by sharing best examples, supporting initiatives (such as EU Code Week, Safer Internet Day, National Digital Skills and Jobs Coalitions), partnering more broadly with digital sector and orchestrating dialogue with stakeholders.
Good policy making requires a solid base of evidence and well-developed predictions to inform and guide policy decisions and implementation. Foresight can help improve education and training systems, solve current educational challenges, offer projections of the future trends in employment, and analyse the current and future population’s skills base. Digital transformation impacts the labour market not only by increased demand for skills, but also through significant changes in job profiles – new professions related to cloud computing, big data, AI, machine learning, etc., will emerge. As the traditional taxonomy of professions changes, the skills forecast must adapt to the nuances of the digital workforce. While the Digital Education Action Plan, Cedefop’s Skills Panorama or Victory Project – analysing vacancies in a few EU countries – are steps in the right direction, more should be done. To reduce shortages caused by lack of information or information mismatches, we call upon European leaders to:
- Enhance digital skills forecasts at national and regional level.
- Invest in deeper analysis of the digital skills needed for working with modern technologies such as: AI, cloud or IoT.
Technology innovation changes the labour market. Companies are delivering services and employees are completing their tasks online, globally, working from anywhere. Digital solutions enable new ways of working e.g. teleworking, working from home, virtual conference rooms, etc. This way of working has a direct impact on working conditions, resulting in an increasing number of people working in part-time jobs or being self-employed. New business models, driven for example by social media, allow new generations of employers and employees to work flexible hours and remotely. In times of digital transformation, it is crucial that all stakeholders, especially companies and trade unions, are involved in rethinking the labour contract (ensuring e.g. lifelong learning, social security, etc.) together with the EU institutions and the Member States. We specifically urge EU Member States to:
- Involve industry, employers and trade union organisations in a broad debate on the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, and in particular the proposal for a Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions, as well as other acts leading to rethinking employment policies.
Read our members’ case studies on digital skills and inclusion
Trust is fundamentally important as it is the glue that holds relationships together and is a basic prerequisite for a well-functioning and participatory democracy. While digital technologies do raise new challenges, they also present great opportunities to increase trust. Already today, new technologies are being used to provide more transparency and easier access to information and platforms. In the digital age, trust is closely linked to data protection cybersecurity. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Europe has set the bar high for the protection of personal data and it should continue to do so. In the area of cybersecurity, Europe must act as one to ensure there are no weak links in the chain. Industry plays a vital role in fostering cybersecurity and a safe infrastructure and should as such be closely involved in the development as well as implementation of any frameworks designed to identify and remedy risks. Together, leaders from EU, governments and industry can strengthen our common cybersecurity through information-sharing, best practice and a common approach to secure infrastructure.
By 2025, fewer than 10% of internet users should be deterred from online purchase.
The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has clearly marked a shift in public conscience about the importance of data protection and it has generated unprecedented efforts from companies to ensure compliance with a complex set of rules and requirements. These efforts have also been clear on the authorities’ side, both in the Member States and with the setting up of the new European Data Protection Board (EDPB).
The complexity and variety of such efforts also require new ways of ensuring collaboration and mutual learning between industry and regulators. Changes in technology and business models will be sweeping in the future, and these must be reflected in the interpretation and implementation of the GDPR. This cannot be achieved without meaningful industry dialogue with data protection authorities (DPAs), which should go beyond the current format of stakeholder consultations.
The independence of DPAs is not at odds with an open and transparent dialogue with industry. Indeed, the DPAs’ very statutory independence guarantees that ongoing structured involvement from industry can greatly increase their knowledge, effectiveness and responsiveness. We therefore call on European leaders to:
- Set up a “Privacy Competence Community,” bringing together the main stakeholders from industry, academia and non-profit organisations to help advance and disseminate the latest privacy-enhancing solutions and provide structured industry input into the work of the EDPB.
Preparing for Europe’s new data protection law becoming applicable was particularly challenging for small businesses. Helping small businesses develop the skills to understand the most important aspects of their compliance obligations under the GDPR is desperately needed – without action, Europe will be faced with continued uncertainty and a waste of economic potential. To facilitate a correct understanding and implementation of the GDPR among Europe’s broad SME base, we call on European leaders to:
- Support the development of a pan-European network of Codes of Conduct for GDPR implementation for SMEs, responding to the common needs of various SME sectors and facilitating widespread application of the GDPR.
With the GDPR, Europe has set a high bar for the protection of personal data. Electronic communications undoubtedly represent a significant portion of the data that is processed around the world, with Europe being no exception, as new industrial opportunities and the proliferation of internet of things (IoT) technologies, connected cars, etc. continues to drive digital transformation opportunities.
Europe has already tried to revamp its sectorial rules on privacy in electronic communications with the ePrivacy Regulation proposed under the current term. The complexity of the negotiations has shown that the current proposal fundamentally misunderstands the implications of expanding old rules to new paradigms. Because ePrivacy is key to improving trust in a fast-changing technological environment, we urge the next Commission to:
- Put forward a new proposal for the ePrivacy Regulation that fundamentally reassesses the relationship with the GDPR, ensures and provides clarity on the alignment between the two legal instruments and enables beneficial uses of electronic communications and terminal equipment data.
Cyber hygiene and awareness have emerged as strategic assets for both corporations and governments. It is fair to say that the wellbeing of entire economies and societies depends on them. At the same time, cybersecurity is a moving target and requires constant adjustment and collaboration to identify and remedy risks, particularly as the attack surface expands with the growth of connected products.
Europe has responded to this challenge with a comprehensive strategy to improve the overall level of cybersecurity in the EU, a key part of which is the Cybersecurity Act giving the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) a permanent, enhanced mandate and setting up a framework for the development of European certification schemes. We want this framework to be successful, which critically depends on the schemes’ ability to generate uptake in the market and keep up with the state of the art in the various technologies and sectors that could be involved. To this end, we call on European leaders to:
- Involve the relevant industry experts in the development of the certifications schemes designed under the Cybersecurity Act. Involving industry beyond the initial consultation phase, directly in the development of the individual schemes, will ensure both the quality of the schemes themselves and a broad uptake of the schemes by industry players.
- Ensure alignment with market-driven standards to facilitate industry adoption and global scalability.
Protecting the security of European and global network information systems requires collaboration between industry and governments. As the fall-out from the WannaCry and NotPetya attacks in May and June 2017 shows, substantial economic and social damage can be created, and lives put at risk when security vulnerabilities are hoarded for future exploitation by governments. The damage from attacks based on such vulnerabilities can be significantly mitigated if vendors have prior knowledge of them before they are released into the wild and are able to prepare patches and workarounds.
Recent attacks, consistent leaks into the public domain and a high rate of rediscovery of vulnerabilities underscore the importance of having transparent processes, subject to meaningful oversight, for how governments handle and disclose vulnerabilities. To this end, we urge the European Commission, in collaboration with ENISA, to:
- Launch a Vulnerability Equities Process, with the purpose of coordinating Member State actions balancing whether to disclose vulnerabilities or temporarily restrict them for purposes of law enforcement or national security.
By 2025, European enterprises should have a clear cybersecurity strategy.
The objective of the Digital Single Market strategy is to give better access to goods and services online by removing unjustified barriers and improving the confidence of consumers and businesses to buy and sell cross-border. Effective consumer protection is a key enabler of online trust. This ultimately plays a significant role in the EU’s competitiveness and growth of e-Commerce markets for goods, services and information. A balanced consumer protection framework is essential for the further development of these markets to the benefit of consumers and businesses alike. We therefore call upon European leaders to:
- When appropriate, adapt existing contractual rules to changing consumer behaviour and current and future technological developments to support innovation while ensuring a high level of consumer protection in order to address the remaining obstacles to e-Commerce in Europe.
- Make sure that any new consumer-related legislation strikes the right balance between boosting consumer confidence in technology and online shopping, while providing businesses with the necessary legal certainty to keep providing innovative products and services.
As more and more consumers enjoy online shopping, the European Commission should aim to deliver a fairer Single Market that will boost trust in the e-Commerce sector and encourage businesses to respond to consumers’ growing demand. The European Union already has some of the strongest rules on consumer protection in the world but needs to ensure that consumers are better educated about the rules and that they are better enforced. While the existing EU consumer framework is considered to be broadly fit for purpose, any revision of the rules should be aimed at their simplification and providing consumers with the appropriate tools to protect them against illegal commercial practices and fight mass harm situations. To improve consumers’ access to justice in the EU and increase consumer trust, we call on the European Commission to:
- Devote its efforts to ensure better enforcement and awareness of existing consumer rules. This will improve people’s access to justice and increase their trust in the e-Commerce sector.
- Adequately equip consumers to fight against mass harm situations by not falling short of its ambition in the proposal on representative actions, which aims at harmonising collective redress mechanisms in Europe. The new rules should be based on the Commission’s 2013 own Recommendations and common principles for injunctive and compensatory collective redress mechanisms in the Member States and integrate necessary safeguards against forum shopping and abusive-style litigation that would fail to benefit consumers.
Improving cross-border access to electronic evidence in criminal matters is important to provide legal certainty for both companies operating in this space and users – both citizens and businesses – who rely on our members’ services to store and process some of their most sensitive and private information. The e-evidence package proposed by the European Commission in the current term is a vital part of ensuring clarity and harmonisation across the EU, and the next step is to ensure agreements with third countries that provide similar rules-based protections for users and providers when authorities seek access to data stored on a cross-border basis. To this end we call on European leaders to:
- Negotiate an executive agreement with the US in the context of the US Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (CLOUD Act). An agreement that builds on similar rules with an important jurisdiction such as the US can reinforce protections for consumers and businesses and act as a model for other countries with strong privacy protections and rule of law, thus limiting conflicts of law.
Read our members’ case studies on cybersecurity