The European Commission’s strategy for “digitising” industry that was unveiled today is a good step in the right direction. The digital industry will play its part but we need a business and policy environment that maximises our chances to take advantage of this opportunity.

In the build-up to last May’s unveiling of the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy DIGITALEUROPE urged the European Commission to focus its efforts on preparing Europe’s economy for the digital transformation. This week’s package of initiatives does just that.

We are getting to the meat of the DSM, and not a minute too soon. Last month at our Masters of Digital event the final panel discussion involved speakers from agriculture, auto manufacturing and financial services, talking about how digital technology is already redefining their industries. Masters of Digital Logo

Just three years ago discussions about how drones and automated tractors can improve farmers’ efficiency, how 3D-printed car parts can help build cars tailored to local market conditions, or how a phone could replace a bank card would have sounded like science fiction. It involves science but it’s not fiction.

These are a few examples of how the digital transformation is already underway.

The technology package of initiatives unveiled today correctly identifies some of the core elements of the digital transformation.

And contrary to what some feared, it isn’t a rush to regulate. Instead, there are some pragmatic suggestions how Europe should make better use of the technologies on offer. Innovation in the areas of high-performance computing and cloud needs to be encouraged in an inclusive way.

The proposed “innovation hubs” are an excellent idea. To be truly effective they will need to be embraced by Europe’s business community. We’ve seen really great examples of this in some of Europe’s leading cities.

The focus on developing digital skills is also to be welcomed. It is important to ramp up efforts to ensure Europe has the digital skills we need to make the most of the digital opportunities. I would add that policy makers and educators themselves need training to appreciate the impact of new technologies.

The inclusive approach seen in the cloud initiative is also evident in the approach to ICT standardisation laid out by the Commission, with its emphasis on collaboration between public and private sectors. We have a unique opportunity to master digital for the benefit of all Europeans.

The digital industry will play its part but we need a business and policy environment that maximises our chances to take advantage of this opportunity. This week’s announcements by the Commission are a good step in the right direction.

DIGITALEUROPE wants two things for Europe; first, for us to get the best from digital – to have strong productive economies, efficient public services and citizens enjoying digital technologies as part of their daily lives.

And second we want Europe to be a great place for the digital sector – including DIGITALEUROPE’s members – to thrive and grow. Put simply – ours is a vision of a Europe that has mastered digital.

We see around us everyday the great promise that digital technology offers. We watch the transformation of great European businesses. We hear about new tech, and tech-driven businesses growing and thriving, and we see the increasing attractiveness of many European cities and regions to investors.

But are we doing enough to harness the potential of digital technologies?

DIGITALEUROPE measures the DSM elements against a set of principles we think are pre-requisites to achieving our vision – the masters of digital vision. They include the following:

– Does the initiative take us towards a single market fit for the digital age? Does it break down national silos?

– Will it encourage innovation and entrepreneurship?

– Is the initiative simply shielding the status quo from change? For example, by protecting an incumbent industry or national icon, or trying to protect jobs threatened by technological progress or just new fair competition?

– Are new rules really needed or could existing rules be used more effectively? And if they are needed have the policymakers designed them in the least burdensome, and most straightforward way possible?

– Does the initiative recognise the global nature of digital? If so will it encourage European companies and citizens to want access to products, services and customers from around the globe? And will it allow European businesses to take advantage of a global approach to standards?

– Finally, and most important of all, will the DSM encourage economic growth and the creation of good quality European jobs?

This week’s announcements appear to uphold these principles. The emphasis on collaboration with industry that runs through all the separate elements of the technology package bodes well for Europe’s on-going digital transformation, and its ability to boost growth and create jobs in the digital age.

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