02 Mar 2021

Masters of Digital 2021: The national recovery plans must have a European dimension and promote innovative projects

Masters of Digital 2021

This year’s Masters of Digital explored how digital will drive Europe’s recovery. Our dedicated panel discussion highlighted the digital investments necessary to push our continent forward and how we can make use of this opportunity to reinvent our society for the better, by making meaningful progress towards our climate goals.

Is 20 per cent of the Recovery Fund earmarked to digital enough to give our citizens the tools and skills they need to thrive in the digital age? Our panel “The Digital Road to Recovery” brought together key policymakers and industry players to discuss how Europe can think creatively and act decisively to deliver a fair, green and digital recovery, as Fernanda Ferreira Dias, Director General for Economic Activities at the Portuguese Ministry of Economy and Digital Transition, put it.

Member States are at different stages with their recovery plans, with just over a half having made them public at the time of our summit. Director-General Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, in opening Day 1 of Masters of Digital, sounded the alarm on this, noting that it’s difficult for stakeholders to provide meaningful input “without a text to look at and an open dialogue”.

However, although the level of maturity differs, the good news is that digital is prominent in all of them, noted Céline Gauer, Head of the Commission’s Recovery and Resilience Task Force, in kicking off the panel.

Norbert Lütke-Entrup, Head of Technology and Innovation Management at Siemens, posed that, although Europe might have fallen behind in the consumer digital space, the digitization of the building industry can secure Europe’s role as the global industrial leader. Indeed, he noted, “the building industry is a textbook example of how the objective to become greener goes hand in hand with our goal to drive forward the productivity and the digitalisation of European industries”. To this end, Lütke-Entrup stressed that, along with a digitally skilled labour market, it will be essential to develop smarter – i.e. digitised – energy management systems.

There was also a specific focus on the need for new projects and reforms under the Recovery Fund, with a consensus that European priorities should lie in digitalisation of small companies, connectivity, digital skills and the digital transformation of public services. “The more we can connect digital technologies and new business models to provide better public services” Jyrki Katainen, President of Sitra, added, “the more we can promote digitalisation and increase productivity”.

Damian Boeselager, MEP

“These plans must be scrutinized from a European perspective, to make sure we have a greener and more digital future.”

MEP Damian Boeselager, who was part of the Parliament’s negotiating team for the Recovery Fund, called for money to be spent in interoperable and open source networks, with proper access for SMEs and adequate resources to data protection. However, he stressed that the Recovery Fund “should not just repackage existing spending. For example, in Germany there were already some ideas planned and now we are just refinancing them with the European money. This cannot happen: we need to have really strong, additional investments to give an additional growth impetus that Europe currently so desperately needs”.

Watch the full panel discussion

Masters of Digital 2021: Panel “The Digital Road to Recovery”

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