EU paves the way for digital sovereignty

EU paves the way for digital sovereignty

On the 19th February 2020, the European Commission unveiled its digital strategy, as well as announced its new strategies for data and artificial intelligence (AI), with the aim to bolster its digital economy and sovereignty (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/19/business/europe-digital-economy.html).

This move is an attempt for the EU, to not be overly reliant on foreign companies, such as Apple, Samsung, Google, Amazon and Facebook amongst others. It also seeks tougher regulation of these companies, new rules for artificial intelligence and more public spending for the European tech sector.

The above is suitably depicted by the European Commission’s statement “The European Union is and will remain the most open region for trade and investment in the world, but this is not unconditional,” and that “Everyone can access the European market as long as they accept and respect our rules” (https://www.gulf-times.com/story/656369/EU-takes-on-China-and-US-with-plan-to-dictate-glob).

According to the European Commission’s “Shaping Europe’s Digital Future”, the digital strategy rests on three main pillars – technology that works for people, a fair and competitive economy, and an open, democratic and sustainable society (https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/communication-shaping-europes-digital-future-feb2020_en_4.pdf).

In other words, the strategy revolves around safety of, and trust in, the digital services and infrastructure, whilst creating its own resilient networks and communications infrastructure, and could freely instill its values, rules and standards in the European economic ecosystem. This is reinforced by the declaration of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, “We want to find European solutions in the digital age” (https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=8d3d2048-7bb5-422a-9073-ca9105030504)(https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/19/business/europe-digital-economy.html).

It also recognises that connectivity is the most fundamental building block of the digital transformation and that the Gigabit connectivity, powered with secure fibre and 5G infrastructures, is vital if Europe is to tap into its digital growth potential. To this end, adequate investments at EU, national and regional levels are necessary to achieve the EU 2025 connectivity objectives.,(https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/communication-shaping-europes-digital-future-feb2020_en_4.pdf).

The European Commission also published a White Paper on Artificial Intelligence, whereby it “envisages a framework for trustworthy Artificial Intelligence, based on excellence and trust”. It highlights the benefits but also the risks of AI, and proposes human-centered policy options (https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/commission-white-paper-artificial-intelligence-feb2020_en.pdf).

Due to EU’s numerous research centers, secure digital systems, and robust position in robots, it believes that it can become a world leader in AI. It also intends to partner with the private and public sectors to mobilize resources across the value chain and create incentives to accelerate AI deployment (https://sdtimes.com/ai/europe-takes-first-steps-in-shaping-its-digital-future/).

The White Paper also aims at fueling development of an AI ecosystem that fosters innovation and growth for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) while building on traditionally strong European sectors (https://www.euractiv.com/section/5g/opinion/how-europes-ai-strategy-is-getting-it-right/).

Alongside this, the European Commission introduced its data strategy with the objective to ensure that the EU becomes a role model and a leader for a society empowered by data. It also aims at setting up a true European data space, a single market for data, to unlock unused data, allowing it to flow freely within the European Union and across sectors for the benefit of businesses, researchers and public administrations (https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/communication-european-strategy-data-19feb2020_en.pdf).

The European Commission also proposes to establish the right regulatory framework regarding data governance, access and reuse between businesses, between businesses and government, and within administrations (https://www.silicon.co.uk/e-innovation/artificial-intelligence/european-commission-strategy-for-digital-future-331816).

The data strategy also professes that Europe has everything it takes to become a leader in this new data economy. It also suggests concrete governmental and industry measures for creating a “dynamic data-agile economy” without sacrificing the privacy or personal data of consumers and businesses (https://www.euractiv.com/section/5g/opinion/how-europes-ai-strategy-is-getting-it-right/).

The above proposed measures, portray an extremely ambitious policy strategy for the EU to build a “Europe fit for the digital age”. However, the EU’s strategy will not be effective unless Europe plays a pivotal role on the global stage, possibly convincing like-minded countries to agree on common rules for responsible AI, an overall framework for enhanced trust in the digital infrastructure, and meaningful aid to developing countries on how to leverage the outstanding potential of digital transformation(https://www.forbes.com/sites/washingtonbytes/2020/02/19/europes-digital-independence-day/).