The European Union has a central role to play in digitalisation because it sets the legal frame which the member states will then have to flesh out. The European Union has laid down the essential points in the ‘Digital Single Market Strategy in Europe’ that was published in 2015. In this strategy, the European Union supports a free, digital single market where companies can grow whilst at the same time maintaining high consumer and data protection standards.
Europe’s digital policy rests upon three fundamental pillars:
1. Access to digital goods and services must be ensured for consumers and companies.
This is achieved, for instance, by regulating international online commerce. Although around three quarters of all EU citizens used the Internet in 2014, only around 15 percent shopped online in another country. One of the measures to counteract this is to remove the geo-blocking feature that blocks international commerce and strongly curtails shopping opportunities and diversity for customers. Furthermore, the costs for intra-European shipments of products will be reduced and made more transparent, and the efficiency of the entire logistics system will be improved so that customers are not forced to pay overcharged prices and accept long delivery times.
2. The framework conditions for digital networks and services must be optimised.
For this purpose, the best possible Internet connection will be made available to EU citizens in order to enable them to take part in the digital society and economy. According to the EU strategy, basic broadband supply must be ensured by 2020. The protection of personal data must also be warranted.
In July 2016, the European Commission additionally announced public-private co-operation on cybersecurity. The aim is to start co-operating with companies in the fields of research and innovation processing at an early stage in order to develop IT security solutions for different sectors, such as energy, health and mobility.
3. The opportunities of the digital economy must be identified and used in order to drive growth.
Measures to be taken for this purpose by the European Commission include the removal of barriers to access to data within Europe. The resultant legal aspects will also be analysed by the European Commission. These include, for instance, questions regarding access to and the transfer of automated and non-personal data as well as issues related to interoperability and standards. The European cloud initiative will support this by enabling researchers, scientists and technologists to store and exchange data across borders.
Furthermore, an adequately skilled workforce is also a prerequisite for a successful digital economy because digital skills will soon be required for around 90 percent of all activities. However, training schemes and curricula have not yet been aligned with this scenario. The European Commission has therefore committed itself to offer employees the means to take part in the digital working world.
The Digital Single Market Strategy in Europe is designed for a term of several years and focuses on certain interconnected key measures. Its progress will be shown each year using the so-called digital scoreboard.