The European Commission has today launched its strategy for shaping Europe's digital future. Over the next five years, it will focus on three key digital objectives: (i) technology that works for people; (ii) a fair and competitive economy; and (iii) an open, democratic and sustainable society.
Whilst the new digital strategy is wide-ranging - covering issues from 5G networks to labour conditions for platform workers - the first pillars are the Commission's European Data Strategy and its White Paper on Artificial Intelligence, both published today. The Commission is seeking views on both, with the White Paper on Artificial Intelligence open for public consultation until 19 May 2020, and feedback also invited on the Data Strategy. Aims include creating a "single market for data", such that data can flow freely within the EU and be available to all - public or private, start-up or giant - and giving consumers greater power over who can access the data they generate and how it is used.
With respect to the role of EU competition law, the Commission makes clear that it considers "its foundations are as relevant for digital as for traditional industries", but that "competition rules must remain fit for a world that is changing fast". While it is still reflecting on the effectiveness of the current rules in the digital era (an exercise that it envisages taking until 2023), the Commission is nevertheless already clear that competition policy alone cannot address all the issues of the platform economy - additional rules may be needed. To this end, during 2020 it plans to further explore ex ante rules to ensure that markets characterised by large platforms acting as "gate-keepers" remain fair and contestable. The Commission has also today confirmed recent reports that it plans to launch a sector inquiry into the digital economy in 2020, focussing on "new and emerging markets that are shaping our economy and society".
The Commission is not bashful about its ambitions in this sphere, anticipating that Europe's digital strategy will "set the global standards" and "truly inspire the rest of the world". We will be publishing further blog posts and briefings covering key developments as the Commission's strategy unfolds.
The EU must ensure that the digital transformation works for the benefit of all people, not just a few.