BRUSSELS—As the next European Commission assumes office, it should seize the opportunity to deliver the Digital Single Market and develop new laws and regulations essential for providing a policy framework to drive growth in the digital age. To build this framework, a new policy briefing from the Center for Data Innovation proposes five recommendations for how policymakers throughout European Union (EU) institutions can address digital policies in areas such as fairness in online platforms; online hate speech and disinformation; privacy, competition, and innovation; and European competitiveness in emerging digital technologies such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.
“The EU needs to be at the forefront of digital development and adoption in order to advance major priorities such as growing the economy, creating jobs, improving security, and addressing climate change,” said Daniel Castro, Director of the Center for Data Innovation. “But unless EU policymakers develop the political will to achieve harmonized, innovation-friendly laws and regulations, Europe’s opportunity to emerge as a global leader in the digital economy will rapidly fade away.”
The briefing proposes recommendations for EU policymakers in five areas:
- Pursuing Technological Leadership in Emerging Digital Technologies: The EU should seek opportunities to lead in emerging technologies, not existing ones where it lags. It should provide funding for member states to accelerate their e-government efforts, invest in research and development, transfer research into commercial innovations in Europe, provide more access to data, and create a harmonized regulatory environment. As part of this goal, EU policymakers should encourage every EU member state to appoint a chief data officer.
- Creating a Regulatory Framework Fit for the Digital Economy: EU policymakers should identify and update policies that create unnecessary challenges to Europe’s digital transformation. In particular, EU policymakers should amend the GDPR to address shortcomings that impede the digital economy and AI in particular, as well as simplify and harmonize rules for the Digital Single Market.
- Investing in Research: The EU should increase technology R&D, but in partnership with the private sector, including through an Industry-University Cooperative Research Center program for digital technologies and increased funding for industry-supported university R&D centers.
- Encouraging Public Support for a Digital-Ready Population: The EU should encourage its member states to integrate digital skills such as data science and computer science courses into their primary, secondary, and university curriculums. For example, the EU should fund a pilot program that would develop local digital skills training programs.
- Spearheading Technology Policies: The EU should develop best practices on how local authorities can streamline their infrastructure siting requirements to lower costs of deployment for 5G infrastructure, as well as work to coordinate 5G spectrum band plans. The EU should set up shared platforms for public sector open data and encourage member states to build and implement a European data strategy.
“The EU’s digital policies should reflect its twin goals of growing Europe’s economy and leading through its values,” said the Center’s Senior Policy Analyst Eline Chivot, who authored the policy briefing. “By focusing on emerging technologies, creating the right regulatory framework, and supporting innovation throughout the public and private sectors, Europe will position itself for success in the digital economy.”