EU Digital Strategy: A good start, now it is time to walk the talk
“President von der Leyen promised a digital action plan within 100 days, and the Commission has delivered. But more needs to be done to ensure that Europe has 100 unicorns by 2025.
Today’s announcements are a positive step towards a stronger digital Europe. But now it is about the details. We need to continue the good cooperation between policymakers and industry and test different policies through pilots to ensure they achieve their goals.”
– Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE.
Today the Commission presented its Communication on “Shaping Europe’s Digital Future”, as well as its white paper on artificial intelligence (AI) and a European strategy for data.
Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl continued:
“On artificial intelligence we support the Commission’s targeted and risk-based approach. Rather than rush to regulate emerging technologies, we are pleased to see a commitment to work with industry and civil society and enhance the EU’s robust legal framework where there are gaps. It will be important to keep new regulation focused and limited to truly high-risk cases.
As a key member of the AI High Level Expert Group, we are proud of our achievements on the Ethics Guidelines and assessment list, as well as our Policy and Investment Recommendations.
On data we are supportive of the Commission’s aim to unlock the potential of industrial data sharing, and businesses will welcome extra guidance on competition rules. But we are concerned that attempts to make data sharing mandatory could undermine innovation. If we want to encourage more data sharing we need to instill a culture of partnership between businesses.
The three documents make it clear that investment in digital will be crucial for the EU budget. The Digital Europe programme is mentioned numerous times in the documents and the strategies simply will not work if we don’t support them with spending on digital skills and deployment of new technologies. This is why DIGITALEUROPE and 24 national digital trade associations wrote to President Charles Michel and national leaders ahead of tomorrow’s European Council meeting calling on them to boost the part of the budget dedicated to digital from 3% to 10%.”
DIGITALEUROPE’s first reaction to AI White Paper
We agree that Europe’s existing legislative framework is stronger and more ready for AI than any other continent. It is and must continue to be robust and should be adaptable to AI and new technologies. We support a targeted and risk-based approach, to find out where additional and proportionate measures could be needed.
Building legal clarity and a pragmatic, common European legal framework is an essential prerequisite for companies to scale up and to deploy AI in Europe, to the benefit of its economy and society.
We look forward to continue engaging with EU institutions in coming months, via consultations and with our further work in the AI High Level Expert Group. We are working there on an updated assessment list, to really give more practical guidance to organisations developing and deploying AI. We are also organizing sector workshops to get tailored recommendations on AI policy and governance in key European areas, such as manufacturing, healthcare and the public sector.
DIGITALEUROPE’s first reaction to EU data strategy
Companies increasingly need access to large volume of data, notably for AI applications, and they should be encouraged to assess their data sharing opportunities. Sandboxes could help companies to test different data sharing models in key sectors.
To ensure that more data is shared, we need to foster a culture of partnership between businesses, by raising awareness on the benefits of data sharing and providing practical advice.
The Commission should encourage Member States to make public data more accessible at the EU level. Companies, notably SMEs, still struggle to access public data in each of the Member States in different formats: cross border spaces of data under the scope of the Open data (PSI) directive would boost future innovation in Europe.
We look forward to working with EU institutions to develop data spaces, marketplaces and other platforms to exchange data, and make sure they are based on an open yet robust and secure framework.
Accessing the data is only a first step: the EU should encourage industry initiatives on data governance, as well as support activities improving overall data quality, usability and security but also data science and literacy skills.
Investing in our digital future
This strategy must be backed up by a significant investment plan. DIGITALEUROPE has laid out 5 recommendations for a budget fit for the digital age:
Increase the share of the EU budget spending on digital transformation to 10%. It is currently around 3%.
Significantly expand the Digital Europe programme from €9.2 billion to €25 billion to maximise the short- and medium-term impact on skills, AI and SME digitalisation across the EU.
Integrate digital across the Horizon Europe framework programme for research.
Earmark specific spending on digital innovation from other funding programmes, like the Common Agricultural Policy or Cohesion Policy.
Increase overall funding on research and development from 2% to 3% of EU GDP.