1 May 2015

Securing a Digital Single Market: Europe has its work cut out

The Digital Economy is pervasive, it touches on every industry sector, every aspect of society. Yet while Europe is keenly aware of the economic and social opportunities offered by the digital revolution, it is yet to unlock the magic formula that puts European citizens and companies at the forefront of this transformation.
A fully fledged Digital Single Market could add €340 billion to the EU’s GDP and President Juncker has made this a central priority for his Commission.
Traditional business models across the spectrum are being challenged to respond to tech-savvy industry players; societies and policy makers are equally grappling with the speed of technological change. As Europe launches its long-awaited Digital Single Market strategy on 6 May, governments, companies and other interested parties will need to uncover the decisions needed for Europe to create the best conditions for digital growth, and how to ensure this opportunity becomes a reality for all businesses and consumers.
The European Commission’s Digital Single Market Package will focus on three main areas:


1. Improving access to digital goods and services
Specific initiatives on ecommerce, geo-blocking, copyright and VAT will produce a swathe of highly politicised legislative and non-legislative activity. A reopening of copyright legislation, for example, could lead to particularly protracted discussions on the place and value of content in the digital age. 
 
2.Ensuring the right conditions for digital networks to grow
Finding the right investment strategies to encourage broadband infrastructure roll-out across Europe has been a conundrum for the previous Commission. Added to this, a greater coordination of spectrum is needed between Member States for true pan-European services to take off - something that has not been achieved under the current EU Telecoms Single Market review. 
 
3. Creating a European Digital Economy and Society
Market innovations on big data, Internet of Things and cloud computing are constantly evolving. The Commission will play an important role in standard setting for the data economy. Encouraging uptake of digital skills will be a significant challenge.
 
The immediate task for Europe’s digital economy will be ensuring the adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation. Legislators will need to walk a fine line to ensure the final agreed text achieves a balance between protecting the rights of EU citizens online, whilst not creating overly burdensome new rules for business.
Alongside this, big decisions will be required when it comes to agreeing on and implementing the Commission’s Digital Single Market Package. In addition to the vertical legislative efforts on issues such as ecommerce, copyright and VAT, a significant task will be ensuring the take up of cloud and e-services by Europe’s SMEs. The question of “platform neutrality” will also likely gain traction as policies around the Internet of Things begin to take shape.
The imminent launch of a ‘sector enquiry’ into Europe’s e-commerce sector by the Commission’s competition directorate-general adds further expectation for change. This is clear indication that the Juncker Commission is serious about shaking up the tech sector by acting on a number of fronts.
Be it through existing competition rules or newly defined legislation, Europe will have its work cut out. Bold and concerted action from businesses and governments will be needed to secure Europe’s digital future.
This topic will be debated at the European Business Summit on 6th and 7th of May 

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