The European Commission has finally published its anxiously awaited European Digital Agenda, or “EDA” to add a further official acronym to the alphabet soup of the EU. During the past few months the European Parliament, Council, consumer groups and industry have all been frantically busy drafting and presenting their recommendations and advice as to how the final document should look. Well, the framework programme is finally here and given the importance of this document, it’s worth taking a few minutes to take a closer look at what it actually says. After all, this framework will be the ICT’s contribution to Europe 2020 and will shape EU policy in the area for at least the next 5 years.
All in all, the document ceremoniously presented by the Commission met the general expectations. From a political observer’s perspective, the framework has taken a good middle ground and has been carefully worded so as not to overly offend the extreme positions on most of the contentious issues a stake, i.e. copyright aka Intellectual Property Rights and net neutrality. The framework paints a vision of an interoperable, trustworthy digital environment, where digital goods and services can move freely throughout the market and that all levels of society can truly benefit from the technologies that are out there. It tackles this vision by addressing Europe’s infrastructure (100% broadband deployment), legal regime (copyright) and technical specifications (standardization).
The Commission has essentially identified the most important areas in the sector. The art now will be to deliver a coherent and complementary implementation of all priority areas to ensure that Europe benefits from the “sustainable economic and social benefits from a digital single market based on fast and ultra fast internet and interoperable applications.” Europe must not be tempted to address the various priorities as isolated areas independent of each other. This won’t be an easy task, because as it happens, the devil tends to be in the detail. As the framework begins to be translated into concrete deliverables we are likely to see the various old conflicting interests emerge. Europe must look beyond specific commercial interests and national egos to avoid being trapped in , on all levels, a fragmented ICT market.
Europe should see the EDA as a fresh start, a tabula rasa where new and practical ideas can develop to ensure that citizens across Europe can enjoy the full benefits of innovative technologies and services on an equal footing, at last catapulting Europe into becoming a truly digital society.