On 9 February, EIF organised a debate, hosted by MEP Eva Kaili, on Europe’s Digital Principles, a discussion on how to design a clear path towards a common vision and actions for Europe to succeed in the Digital Decade at home and in the world. The MEP was joined by the following guest speakers:
Werner Stengg, Cabinet Expert, Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, European Commission
Konstantinos Komaitis, Policy fellow, Brave New Software project
Sylvie Bollini, Programme Advisor in the Children's Rights Division, Council of Europe
Jakob Greiner, Vice President European Affairs, Deutsche Telekom
Eva Kaili MEP set the scene by stating that we are at a crucial moment, as we need to get right Europe’s Digital Transformation because it can empower citizens, foster innovation, create business opportunities, bring us closer to our climate goals and also strengthen our leadership geopolitically.
For this reason, the MEP added, the Digital Principles Declaration highlights what is most important: putting people at the centre while regarding inclusion, freedom of choice, solidarity, security, and empowerment as priorities.
The European Commission representative, Werner Stengg, referenced the “Shaping Europe’s digital future” strategy in which the very first objective was “technology that works for people”. Every citizen, employee, businessperson has a fair chance wherever they live to reap the benefits of our increasingly digitized society.
The covid crisis has tested our resilience in quickly enhancing Europe’s digital capabilities while making digital inclusion our key objective to ensure that no one is left behind or at least everyone has a fair chance of being part of this transformation. Mr Stengg added that policy means, besides laws and rights, benefits that we want people to have by 2030: full access to first-class education and skills, connectivity, public services, to a safe eID system. The “Declaration on digital rights and principles” will serve as a reference framework for policymakers to create new laws and implement existing ones, for private organisations as they will know what is expected of them, and also for shaping global initiatives, in order to show what Europe thinks the internet should be for people.
Konstantinos Komaitis highlighted the importance of the declaration’s timing, as it is a challenging time for the internet, being used as a weapon to threaten democracies and undermine users’ rights. The same way democratic societies have rules, so does the internet, and this becomes particularly important as new internet models emerge that seek to displace, replace, or generally undermine the internet, Mr. Komaitis added. The declaration touches upon all major points, but no important goal can be achieved without an open, decentralized, and global internet. The internet is not a monolith, its constant evolution, growth, and innovation is a direct consequence of its original design.
Sylvie Bollini focused on the risks and opportunities that the internet brings to children and the importance to take measures that address these risks. States must take measures to address risks with safety and privacy by design approaches and are encouraged to involve private companies when developing policies. Building strong children requires intervention at all levels and in all spheres where they live and act. Therefore, Ms Bollini added, we try to develop specific instruments. Council of Europe legal standards are complemented with tools for educators, parents and children. The work on digital citizenship education is one of the responses that we provide as an organization. New technologies are not only a threat, they allow children to interact, study, create. We should therefore allow children to take full advantage of ICTs.
From the telco perspective, there are ambitious targets in the Digital Decade: a gigabit in every household, 5G in all connected areas by 2030 and overall, high-speed connectivity at affordable prices for everyone, said Jakob Greiner. The enabling framework conditions that would be needed, Mr Greiner added, start with the revisions of the Broadband Cost Reduction Directive and of the State Aid Rules for Broadband. Moreover, there needs to be some form of a paradigm shift of how the internet works today, for all market players to contribute fairly to the cost of the digital infrastructure. These digital principles can set a standard across the world. In conclusion, Mr Greiner highlighted the example of a European digital identity that would accelerate the digitization of the public and private sectors by facilitating processes for citizens and companies.