Opening markets in the digital era

EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE

Opening markets in the digital era


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The world is facing a changing society due to the massive disruption of digital transformation. Digitization is changing the way we make choices in our daily lives.

We live immersed in an increasing interconnected society, and technology is already present everywhere. Digitization is creating an enormous potential, and artificial intelligence is changing all sectors and all fields in our society. However, do we clearly understand where the challenges and opportunities are?

Smart cities and smart solutions are emerging in the places we live, work and move. This creates diverse ecosystems, tending to develop a shared economy (i.e. transport, mobility, etc.), platforms which allow us to make choices as individuals and to be involved in the digital economy. For this reason, digitization is mostly about a change of behavior. Our big challenge is how governments should react to these changes by ensuring that platform economy is operational without restricting competition.

In order to create value in the digital era, we need two main assets: data and trust. We need to know not only how data economy works, but also how to create trust in the data economy, how we create the best possible surrounding to make this new economy work so that we can connect the necessary infrastructure throughout Europe.

Without data, we cannot speak about artificial intelligence. We need to have shared data across sectors, services, technologies and borders. Moreover, we also need access to data and free flows of data in order to create all these services in any sector that have typically been authority driven but now are becoming user-centered. The European Union has to make steps forward, take the lead and find a common way to prove that free flow of data is the EU’s competitive advantage.

In this sense, it is fundamental to have free access to the market. We have to liberalize the market regulation established in the previous industrial revolution and, at the same time, understand where are the new competitive points for the future. Furthermore, we have to understand where and at which point we are providing value to the society in this economy of digitization and technology adaption. Is it only in activities that are influenced directly to the GDP or are we creating value also outside? What are the future competences that we need?

Taking the transport sector as an example, we will see automated vehicles, data transfer not only from car to car but also from the airline to bus or trains and, in many ways, the transportation system will be synchronized and will provide holistic services to the users in the best possible way. We will see data flows from infrastructure to vehicles and the other way round, and automated transport will create again a lot of new challenges. Within Europe, we would be able to guarantee that we know about user rights and we have enough tools to regulate it in the right way. In this context, the second asset we need, together with data, comes up: trust.

When we speak about trust and individuals, we have to refer to rules of privacy, human rights, basic rights on having your own privacy. When we look at society, we speak about cybersecurity and we are looking at the world today, which is even more creative and growing in blocks in the data economy. The most advanced countries in terms of technology are not necessarily western or European countries in 2020, but any other country. At this stage, we should wonder if we share the same ethics, morals or agreement on how we define human basic rights; if we look at privacy at the same level; or how is our justice system defining those issues.

Technology and digitization have to bring benefits not only to individuals but to the entire society. For that purpose, we need digital infrastructure, the capacity to finance this infrastructure, as well as a legal and a regulatory framework. It is not about unlimited regulation, but about ensuring a level playing field which allows sectors to develop.

In conclusion, we have to find a good point of regulation in order to create new markets, and not to restrict them. And this is something that we have not really been good at before. We have always had regulation as a function of control. We need regulation also to open up markets, to create technology and to generate a more ambitious environment for growth and progress. This means that we need to adopt, together with our European colleagues, a different vision with a much clearer understanding of where the challenges are, where the opportunities are, and how we can take the necessary ambitious decisions which will determine our future prosperity in the digital era.

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