The Top 10 Digital Trends that will shape Europe's future and demand Political Leadership


Europe’s future will depend on the ability of our political institutions to foresee, facilitate and manage the social, economic and political consequences of digitally-driven transformation across our continent.

We offered this condensed summary of the digitally-driven trends expected to shape Europe’s digital transformation and thus inevitably the EU policy agenda over the next five years. 

Released in September 2019, this paper is intended both to orient EIF’s own programming priorities for the following year and to serve as input for the wider Parliamentary and EU agenda. We are also contributing to the work of ESPAS, the inter-institutional European Strategy and Policy Analysis System, as well as ORBIS, the Open Repository Base for International Strategic Studies. These contents remain our entire responsibility and do not necessarily reflect the views of any individual EIF member.

The list of proposed trends can be found below.

    • Defence of democracy

      If our open societies become ungovernable and our democratic institutions untenable under attack from malevolent interests enabled by digital technologies, all other issues become academic. Attacks on press freedoms and performance are a particular and growing concern.

    • Emerging technologies

      Rapidly evolving digital technologies will transform all sectors and play a crucial role for society in confronting many challenges we face, notably for the environment, resource
      efficiency and climate change. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the most consequential evolving digital capability, founded on hyper-convergence of a spectrum of established and emerging technologies. Meanwhile, concerns over AI ethics and inbuilt biases grow.

    • Data

      The boundaries of “data policy” are expanding in a ‘Knowing Society’ where the collection of data, access to data, ownership of data, “softwarisation” and the exploitation of data in real time are becoming the primary sources of economic and political power.

    • Data privacy and Data security

      Privacy and consumer protection concerns, notably in response to rapidly-evolving surveillance technologies, will remain at the heart of the Knowing Society. Acquirers of personal data – including governments - will therefore remain under ever-growing pressure not only to protect personal data from breach and unauthorised use, but to make it controllable by data subjects.

    • Anti-trust policy

      Pressure grows for adaptation of fundamental principles underlying anti-trust policy and enforcement to reflect new, digitally-driven, data-dependent, global market dynamics.

    • Very high capacity connectivity

      Ubiquitous, high performance 5G, fibre and comparable network technologies are increasingly understood to be the essential common infrastructure. This enables globally competitive digital transformation in all vertical sectors, shaping the future global balance of both hard and soft power while also increasing exposure to cybersecurity risks.

    • Online harm

      Strategies, organisations and tools to combat digitally-enabled threats to our economies, societies and governance will demand constant evolution and increasing resources in a context of growing “tech-lash” with calls for internet regulation to reestablish trust on-line.

    • Future of work / Social stability

      Digitally-driven transformation is the key to future economic growth through growth of labour productivity, but also raises concerns over the character and distribution of future employment and, thus, social stability. In the Knowing Society, virtually all jobs across all sectors will require digital skills, creating new demands on education and training to meet the soaring demand for ICT-capable professionals.

    • Tax

      Digital transformation of our economies and societies will increasingly challenge established fiscal strategies, policies and boundaries, calling for more cross-border cooperation.

    • Digital leadership

      Worldwide pursuit of global leadership in core digital technologies, products and services, notably by the US, China and other Asian tech powers, raises new geopolitical issues and choices for Europe, particularly for Transatlantic partnership and for Africa, a strategic priority and opportunity for Europe’s tech and investment community. Meanwhile, nationalist tendencies in a growing number of countries raise the risk of a fragmented and weaponised internet.