Brussels, 09 Mar 2021
“Check against delivery”
Today we are presenting a vision and clear avenues to make this a successful Digital Decade for all Europeans.
One year after the adoption of our digital strategy, today’s communication provides us with the compass that we need for this common journey. It proposes tangible goals and ambitious targets to help us navigate in the European digital transition. And to make sure that this transition serves the people.
Our proposal to the European Parliament and Member States includes two main components:
- A list of European digital principles aimed to protect us and empower us as citizens.
- And a digital compass with common targets for a successful digitalisation as well as a monitoring system to track the progress.
I will start with the European digital principles.
Our human-centred approach to digitalisation means that technologies and platforms must respect our rights and our values – also when we are online. It also means that we want the digital transformation to bring about tangible benefits to citizens. Our set of digital principles will, for example include:
- A universal access to high quality connectivity
- To be educated with sufficient digital skills
- To have access to fair and non-discriminatory online services
- And, more generally, ensuring that the same rights that apply offline equally apply online
We propose to have such digital principles endorsed in an inter-institutional solemn declaration signed by the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission.
The second component of our proposal is our digital compass. The Compass will set common objectives on which we will focus our joint efforts. It will help us channel the money that we have secured for our digital transition, both from our European budget and the Recovery and Resilience Facility. And to mobilise private investment for these purposes. It is also crucial that Member States work together to fill in gaps in critical technologies. For this, we will use existing instruments but also consider new ones.
Last but not least, the compass will contain a monitoring system that will allow us to keep track of progress being made. And to identify corrective measures if we fail to reach our ambitious targets.
These targets will focus on four points. These are:
- Capacities and infrastructure
- Digitalisation of businesses and
- Digitalisation of public services
First, we need to invest in skills. People should make the most of digital technologies, and fully participate in our increasingly digital world. Almost 3 in 4 businesses in Europe – mainly small and middle size enterprises – say they don’t find employees with the digital skills they would need, so they cannot invest and grow. And only 1 in 6 digital specialists is a woman: to me it seems like we are depriving ourselves from half of a potential workforce. In addition to increasing people’s digital skills, we want to have 20 million digital experts by 2030. And with a better gender balance to get the most of our talent pool.
Second, we need secure, performant and sustainable digital infrastructures. The pandemic has shown us how important it is to have reliable network connections. In ten years from now, we want all European households covered with gigabit connectivity. As Europeans, we also need to become less dependent on others when it comes to key technologies. This is why by 2030, we want at least 20% of the world’s cutting-edge microelectronics produced in Europe. Living up to the highest environmental standards. And we believe Europe should have its first quantum computer by 2025.
Third, and building on the first two objectives, we must promote the digitalisation of Europe’s businesses. Our ambition for 2030 is to have more world-class European start-ups, and to make sure that millions of smaller companies take up digital solutions. It can be local stores that add a click & collect solution, or farmers who collect data to improve their yields. For 2030 we propose a target that at least 75% of European businesses have taken up digital solutions like cloud computing or Artificial Intelligence. And we want to double the number of European unicorns from 122 today.
Fourth, our digital transition will not be complete without the digitalisation of public services. Public services make a huge difference in our daily lives, think of electronic health records, for example. They are also an important driver of digitalisation for small and medium companies that can shift a large part of their administration online, like filing online VAT forms for instance. This is why we propose to have 100% of key public services available online for all Europeans by 2030 – and 80% of us should use a digital identity.
As a final point, this communication also includes an important international dimension. Across our different work streams we will build international partnerships. In an open digital economy, partnerships help us fast-forward the development of European technologies which can hopefully become global solutions. After all, without international partnerships there wouldn’t be any European scientific instruments included in space missions like on Perseverance on Mars right now. Partnerships also create an open space where we can promote European digital standards and advance our interests. We therefore aim to build a coalition of like-minded partners around the world ready to defend the open nature of the internet and a use of technology that respects fundamental rights and democratic values. We will work to address the large connectivity gaps in the developing world while promoting our human-centric model, and we will explore setting up a new Digital Connectivity Fund to that end.
Today’s paper is the start of an inclusive consultation process. We will widely consult on our digital principles, to arrive at a solid text for our inter-institutional declaration. And we will work with the European Parliament, Member States, and other key stakeholders to agree on our “compass” in the form of a digital policy programme that is clear about our destination, on how to get there, and how to measure success.
To conclude, I hope this is obvious that digitalisation is not an end in itself. It has to have a purpose. For us, making this digital decade a successful one means to become this prosperous, confident and open partner that we want to be in the world. And make sure that all of us fully benefit from the welfare brought by an inclusive digital society.
There is much more to say about that.
I will now leave the floor to Thierry.