Europe has set goals and seeks to establish global regulations to compete alongside the US and China as digital leaders.
For many years, Europe has been dependent on other countries, such as the United States, for digital and technologies. In these areas, it has lagged behind North America and China, which are at the top of the rankings and have notably given birth to giants, like Gafam. To catch up and regain digital sovereignty, the European Union (EU) is betting on a strategy: the “digital decade”.
Presented by the Commission in March 2021, it aims to enable the digital transformation of Europe, as well as to “empowering businesses and citizens to act in a sustainable, human-centric and more prosperous digital future”. This strategy was at the heart of a recent event organized by Politico. But what exactly is this strategy for the digital development of Europe?
A compass to accelerate digital transformation
The EU’s “digital decade” project notably includes a digital compass with four cardinal points: the ” skills “the “secure and sustainable digital infrastructure”the “digital business transformation” and the “digitalization of public services”. These axes correspond to ambitious objectives that Europe hopes to achieve by 2030. For the first, the goal is for at least 80% of the population to have basic digital skills, but also to have 20 million digital specialists. computing, with parity between men and women.
On this subject, Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President of the Commission for a Europe adapted to the digital age, explained the bloc’s desire to open up to as many people as possible. “I think it’s really important to think about digital experts in agriculture, energy, mobility, digital experts everywhere and that we can recruit people based on their passion for agriculture, energy , mobility “, she said. For the Commissioner, this is better than saying “you have to be digital from the start”as it scares away some people thinking that it is an environment for a few people only.
With regard to the second axis, the EU considers that a “sustainable digital infrastructure with respect to connectivity, microelectronics and the ability to process vast amounts of data” is necessary to achieve digital leadership. It is seen as key to enabling further technological developments and sustaining the competitive advantage of European industry. The objectives of this cardinal point thus include safe and quality connectivity, in particular with 5G, throughout the territory. This would ensure the participation of all businesses and all citizens in society. Europe has also set itself the goal of having its first quantum computer by 2025, because these machines, capable of carrying out in a few hours operations currently requiring days or even years, would revolutionize several fields such as health or the environment.
For the “digital business transformation”, the Commission explains that the adoption of digital technologies has been essential for several companies during the pandemic. In addition, she believes that technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics or augmented reality, will be more than generic technologies by 2030, because they will be at the heart of new products or new processes. manufacturing in several sectors such as health, mobility or agriculture. The objective is therefore for 75% of European companies to use them.
Finally, with the “digitalization of public services”, the EU wants these, and online democratic life, to be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. She thinks that their digitization will be useful to citizens, like telemedicine which has allowed patients to stay healthy during the pandemic. On the other hand, electronic voting would be a means of encouraging greater public participation in democratic life.
Further efforts to achieve these goals
These objectives are supposed to allow the EU to no longer be in a situation of digital dependence and to create a digital society in which no one is left behind in 2030. However, it does not seem to be on track for the reach. This is shown by a Deloitte report published at the end of March. While progress has been made in narrowing the gap between current levels of digitalization and those targeted over the past year, progress remains slow in some areas, such as basic digital skills. . It indicates that investments and other support may be needed to “areas that seem farthest from the target and where there has been relatively slow progress towards the target”.
While additional efforts seem to be required, Europe’s project could be disrupted by the war in Ukraine. Asked about this potential disruption of objectives by PoliticoMargrethe Vestager suggests that these efforts are still on track: “I think they will rather be accelerated because neither the digital transition nor the fight against climate change can stop, because digitization continues. » For the commissioner, Europe cannot allow itself to wage war first and then the others. More specifically, on the subject of digital, the vice-president thinks that “to increase our cybersecurity, we need to cooperate to ensure that we are cybersecure and, of course, to be able to do more of this on our own”.
Betting on ethics to find a place among the digital leaders
In addition to these objectives, the European Union wishes to make a place for itself alongside the United States and China by dictating the rules of an ethical digital economy. With this in mind, she presented two projects to regulate the Net at the end of 2020: the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA). With these two rules, “what we have discussed, agreed and implemented in the physical world will also be a reality in the digital world”recalled Margrethe Vestager.
For the moment, the Parliament and the Council have reached a consensus on the DMA, which aims in particular to stem the anti-competitive practices of the tech giants. Among other things, it will impose interoperability between messaging services such as WhatsApp, Messenger and iMessage. The DSA is still under negotiation to reach an agreement on a single version. It should soon experience the same fate as the DMA and the two regulations should come into force in 2022. This will then be an opportunity to see if Europe has managed to appear alongside the two leaders in the digital field of a ethical point of view.
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What is the “digital decade”, Europe’s project for 2030?
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