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EU vision for 2030 digital transformation outlined

Out-Law News | 12 Mar 2021 | 2:11 pm | 2 min. read

Digital infrastructure and services, and an EU rulebook to match, will be the norm across Europe by the end of this decade if a new vision set out by the European Commission is realised, experts in technology law and contracts have said.

Dr. Nils Rauer and Wouter Seinen of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, were commenting after the Commission set out fresh plans for digital transformation across the EU by 2030.

The Commission's communication includes specific targets on connectivity, skills and business use of digital technologies, and in the digitisation of public services too. It encourages multinational cooperation on related projects, pursues environmental sustainability, and advocates international partnerships in areas like quantum computing and the development of '6G' technology.

Stable connectivity is at the heart of what needs to be accomplished

The plans fall under a broad 'digital compass' for 2030 that the Commission plans to agree in partnership with the EU's law making bodies – the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers – before the end of 2021. The digital compass is, in essence, a "digital policy programme" for the next decade and involves "setting the focus on delivery and constant commitment towards the common digital goals".

Progress towards the objects set would be subject to an "enhanced monitoring system" monitored and reported on annually in a 'European state of the digital decade' report, the Commission said. "The report will trigger a collaborative analysis between the Commission and member states to identify solutions addressing weaknesses and to propose targeted actions for effective remedies", it has proposed.

Rauer Nils

Dr. Nils Rauer, MJI

Rechtsanwalt, Partner

What is new is a clearer structure and prioritisation as well as a tighter and more reliable timeframe  

Rauer said: "The communication is a further piece in a chain of initiatives aimed at transforming the EU into an environment where digital infrastructure, digital services and a digital framework of rules are the natural addition to the analogue life. This process was kicked-off by the previous Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, and continues to be pursued now under the presidency of Ursula von der Leyen. What is new is a clearer structure and prioritisation as well as a tighter and more reliable timeframe – a decade is not very long compared to what the Commission wants to achieve."

Amsterdam-based Seinen said: "Stable connectivity is at the heart of what needs to be accomplished. The best applications and the smartest business concepts will not resonate and prosper if people cannot access the offering due to the lack of bandwidth. Investment in fibre networks, access points, and free, secure Wi-Fi are all foundational elements to enable businesses, and in particular SMEs, and ultimately the consumers, to actively participate in the digital transformation."

Specific objectives proposed under the 'digital compass' 2030 plans include for all European households to have access to a Gigabit network, and for 5G connectivity to be accessible in all populated areas.

The Commission has also set the proposed target of doubling the number of European 'unicorns' – billion dollar worth companies – from the current level of 122, and for 75% of European businesses to have taken up cloud computing services, big data and artificial intelligence (AI). Currently just 26% of European businesses are estimated as having adopted cloud solutions, with a quarter estimated to use AI and just 14% using big data.

The Commission has also set its sights on Europe being "at the cutting edge of quantum capabilities by 2030", on guaranteeing access to data services with low latency wherever businesses are located in the EU, and on increasing European companies' share of the "cutting-edge and sustainable semiconductors" market, including processors, to at least 20% of world production in terms of value by the end of the decade 

On digitisation of public services, the Commission's proposed level of ambition is that, by 2030, all key public services are accessible online, that all EU citizens have access to their electronic medical records, and that at least 80% of citizens use a digital ID solution.

The Commission's 'digital compass' plans build on its 'shaping Europe's digital future' strategy. Since that paper of February 2020, the Commission has outlined its proposals for a new Data Governance Act, Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act.