The European Commission has announced the next steps in its Digital Single Market project. Having set itself ambitious targets in 2015, aiming to transform the way Europe does business, the Commission is now proposing action in the following four areas:
- digitising industry
- a European cloud initiative
- priority areas for improved ICT standardisation, and
- an e-Government action plan
Digitising European industry
The Commission identifies a need for increased co-ordination and targeted investment to reap the benefits of going digital across all parts of the economy, especially in traditional business sectors such as construction, and among SMEs. Particularly interesting are promises to:
- invest €500 million in a pan-EU network of digital innovation hubs where businesses can obtain advice and test digital innovations. The plan is to base these in universities and research organisations, and a bidding process for the funding will follow.
- set up large-scale pilot projects to strengthen internet of things, advanced manufacturing and technologies in smart cities and homes, connected cars or mobile health services.
- adopt future-proof legislation that will support the free flow of data and clarify ownership of data generated by sensors and smart devices. This is intended to promote use of data from satellite imagery, for example, or purchase transaction records. Plans include removing national barriers to data flow and addressing data ownership and use.
- review rules on safety and liability of autonomous systems and IoT to allow large-scale, real world testing to take place.
European Cloud Initiative
The Commission plans to roll out a new cloud infrastructure, starting with an Open Science Cloud to support scientific research, and aiming to enlarge users to include the public sector and industry in the coming years. Data generated from Horizon 2020-funded projects will, as a rule, be publicly accessible by 2017, unless there are specific reasons to preserve confidentiality.
An IP-rights clearing system and ‘pay-per-use’ model is envisaged for access to valuable datasets.
Priority areas for improved standardisation
The Commission will focus on five areas for standardisation:
- cloud computing
- internet of things
- data technologies
Because standard-setting is largely done on a consensual, industry-led basis, and is often done globally, there is a limit to the Commission’s influence over the process. But it intends to use the powers it has to fill gaps and address the complexity and multiplicity of standards, eg, the more than 600 closely related standards in the IoT arena.
The objective here is to achieve digital public services available seamlessly across the EU. The Commission promises 20 measures to be launched by the end of 2017, including:
- a digital single gateway enabling users to obtain all information, assistance and problem-solving services needed to operate efficiently across borders.
- interconnecting national business registries and insolvency registers and connecting them to the e-justice portal, offering a one-stop shop.
- a pilot project to enable companies to provide paperwork to public authorities in one EU country only.
- helping EU Member States to develop cross-border e-health services such as e-prescriptions and patient summaries.
- accelerating the transition to e-procurement, e-signatures and implementation of the "once-only" principle in public procurement.
There is a lot of work here. Much of what is proposed will require further research and engagement from industry, national governments and independent bodies to make progress. Some new EU funding is announced, for example, for the planned pan-EU network of digital innovation hubs, but the Commission is also relying on the ‘mobilisation’ of funds from other sources, detailed in the Q&A document.
At the heart of the DSM project is a desire to tackle the effect of national boundaries, whether physical or virtual, that impede the operation of the EU as a seamless marketplace. The Commission has set itself some tough targets, but the focus on tackling specific problems looks promising.