On 29 April, EIF organised an online debate, hosted by MEP Pilar del Castillo, during which members exchanged views on how technology is supporting the fight against the coronavirus emergency.
The debate, moderated by EIF Director General Maria Rosa Gibellini, featured the following speakers:
- Pilar del Castillo, MEP and EIF Chair
- Steven Tas, Chairman, Electronic Communications Network Operators (ETNO) Association
- Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director General, DIGITALEUROPE
- Elizabeth Crossick, Head of Government Affairs EU, RELX Group
- Joakim Reiter, Group External Affairs Director and Member of the Executive Committee, Vodafone
- Gianpiero Lotito, Founder & CEO, FacilityLive
MEP del Castillo kicked off the debate by acknowledging the importance of digital technologies in supporting the fight against health crisis: “Their potential is astonishing. Digital technologies have been instrumental in order to identify and monitor the evolution of the spread or to optimize traffic flows, improve efficiency of logistics etc.” Moreover, Ms. del Castillo highlighted the importance of high-capacity networks which, during the covid-19 pandemic, have enabled teleworking, e-commerce, e-learning etc.
“Today, more than ever, I am proud to be working in the telecoms sector” ETNO Chairman Steven Tas said at the beginning of his speech. Mr. Tas praised telecom engineers who “have been handling changes in traffic patterns with traffic loads spiking up to 50% on fixed and mobile data” during this crisis. However, he called for more to be done in helping the digitization of SMEs, for bringing more of them into the cloud and the remote working area.
Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE shared with the audience a set of recommendations on Covid-19 that they proposed to the EU titled “Respond, Recover, Reinvent”. These recommendations include: “urgent liquidity boost and financial support for SMEs”, “harnessing the power of EU health data & coronavirus contact tracing apps, while respecting privacy” and putting “digital transformation at the centre of the EU budget.” Moreover, Ms. Bonefeld-Dahl presented some key findings from their latest members’ survey: “Three quarters of digital companies are experiencing a financial hit”, “82% of all employees can work from home, but one third of digital businesses are expecting layoffs” and “93% believe pandemic will lead to a global recession; supply chains have been disrupted, particularly in China (86%) and Europe (74%)”. More information can be found at this link.
Elizabeth Crossick presented two practical examples of how RELX is bringing value to both the medical sector and general public during the pandemic: “We have been working with clinicians and hospital staff to develop a free one-stop shop for all the resources that they would need to treat covid19 patients. Moreover, our data scientists have worked tirelessly so that researchers and the general public can have fast, free access to corona-related articles.”
Joakim Reiter of Vodafone highlighted the necessity of more cooperation: “Partnerships between governments, EU institutions & the private sector are the only way to achieve the support that citizens need.” Mr. Reiter presented Vodafone’s Five Point Action Plan to help communities in which they operate across the world” These steps are: 1. Maintaining the quality service of networks 2. Capacity and Services of Critical Government Functions 3. Improving Dissemination of Information to the Public 4. Facilitating Working from Home, Helping Small and Micro Businesses 5. Improving Government’s insights of People’s Movements in Affected Areas.
Gianpiero Lotito of FacilityLive responded to the previous speeches by pointing out that, in his opinion, the Covid19 emergency should be viewed as an opportunity: “It is an accelerator. I see a new beginning ahead of us in Europe”. In addition, Mr. Lotito stated: “Ecosystem builders and our idea of Small Valleys will play a major role to nurture the scale up of a thriving European Tech Industry for Europe to compete at global level after so many years as a follower.”