Later today (9 Dec 2014) I will be speaking at a hearing on the Digital Single Market hosted by the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament alongside European Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip. As the chief executive of a national digital technology trade association, in one of the EU’s most advanced digital economies,
I am delighted that delivering a Digital Single Market has become such a central focus for the Junker Commission and the new European Parliament. Europe desperately needs to create new high value jobs. If our citizens and, in particular, our young people are to see continued relevance in their national governments and their European Institutions, then we have to show how good policy and good politics can help create the conditions for innovation, growth and jobs.
The prize of a successful digital single market, where companies can compete efficiently to bring new valuable products and services to a market of 500 million people is huge. Easy access to a scale market of that size will help small emerging European companies with great ideas and great people to grow and scale quickly. It will mean that in the world of digital innovation Europe can compete with the US, China, India and others. It will mean that the next generation of young Europeans can look forward to a future of creative, interesting and rewarding work.
So how do we make this happen?
Embracing change – We are 25 years into this digital revolution. Already there is much for Europe and its citizens to celebrate. The digital revolution is empowering more people and businesses every day, allowing them to take their future into their own hands. The net social and economic impact has been hugely positive. Whilst there is much that we might want to change we can only succeed in shaping the future by going with the tide of history not against it. We cannot rewind the clock. We cannot un-invent things. We cannot simply seek to reign-in our competitors.
The digital revolution is global – the digital economy works 24/7 around the world. It is becoming more connected by the second. Just as water runs downhill so digital wants to be large and global. Europe and its Member States should be at the forefront of extolling European values of openness, free speech and democracy in a global digital revolution – not encouraging the idea that the internet and the web should be carved out into local or regional versions.
Easier not harder to innovate – innovation is the driving force of digital. Digital technologies and tools constantly create new opportunities to do new things. We have to make it easier for European companies to bring those innovative ideas to market across the EU quickly and with a little legal uncertainty and regulatory inhibitors as possible.
Simpler not more complicated – there clearly have to be rules and those rules have to be understood, complied with and enforced. Particularly where rules are put in place to protect the consumer – those rules should make things simpler not more complicated and they should be meaningful. Every time we click away a ‘cookies’ reminder on a web site we should ask ourselves how the rules we are proposing are making it easier for people to really manage their digital world.
Innovate around perceived bottlenecks - The digital economy moves incredibly quickly and innovation often means that what can appear like permanent bottlenecks often prove to be far more transient. Technology is very effective at out-innovating what can appear to be monopolistic situations in the short term. Meanwhile, regulating to address these transient bottlenecks will have the effect of setting them in stone, making them permanent and impervious to being innovated away. Where there are permanent economic bottlenecks these should be addressed by competition-based regulation, which is reviewed regularly to take account of technological and market developments.
To conclude: Go with the flow of change; think about Europe shaping a global digital economy; make it easier not harder to innovate; make things simpler not more complicated; and harness the power of innovation over the power of regulation to create new opportunities for new European business and Europe’s talented young people.
Our young people are looking to us to secure their economic future. We cannot afford to let them down.
Posted by Julian David, CEO techUK