A viewpoint from a digital native – the Digital Single Market

My first weeks as an intern in the technology team at FleishmanHillard have been a whirlwind, to say the least. As a Politics and Law student, I am very passionate about the work that me and my team do, and this has been the best educational experience for me so far.

For instance, I have become very interested in the Digital Single Market (DSM) and in issues such as data protection. The hot topic on data protection in Brussels over the past weeks has been the European Court of Justice’s decision regarding the Safe Harbour data transfer agreement between the EU and the US. Now, that might not mean a lot to people outside the Brussels bubble – but it should. The news strongly impacts both businesses and regular people, as it will, for instance, have an impact on e-commerce and online purchase. This has made me realise that perhaps not many people know very much about the Digital Single Market (DSM) either, and about the Commission’s work and how it impacts our everyday lives. So – here’s your crash course on the Commission and its DSM strategy!

What’s all this – digital single market?

Our world is changing as a consequence of technology, but online barriers mean we are not quite embracing the change yet. The European Commission is trying to break down online barriers and make the online and digital world more accessible through the Digital Single Market. Perhaps what interests young people the most is the availability of online goods and services – who doesn’t enjoy a little bit of online shopping?!? However, we still live at the border between the two worlds, the online and offline world, still with one foot in the other, not fully immersed in the wonders that the online world can offer us. We are the generation that is breaking down the barriers keeping us from enjoying the real digital experience, and the DSM is the regulatory tool that aims to help us by making the digital, online environment more accessible.

It can help you!

If you need convincing, let’s take an example! I was born in Romania, but I’m studying in the UK, and now working in Brussels – roaming charges are a pain! I constantly have around 4 SIM cards with me, because it is much cheaper to constantly change your phone number and use a local provider than keeping one number, and using roaming. The Commission, through the DSM, will end all roaming charges as of 15 June 2017. It might seem like a trivial thing to get excited about, but for people who travel a lot, this is really exciting news!

Something else that the DSM is aiming to achieve is to make e-commerce easier (hurray!) and tackle geo-blocking. Geo-blocking is a particularly annoying part of the online world – it means that, depending on which part of the world you are in, you might not have access to every online service available to other countries. For example, for many young people, including myself, online music and films play a big part in our daily lives. However, in Romania it is often the case that when trying to access this type of content I would get a message that it is not available in my country. Seems a bit annoying, doesn’t it?

Digital skills – need to adapt or run away?

Another, very important, aim of the DSM is to advance digital skills, making it easier to live in such a digitalised world. Take teachers for instance. Most of them do not belong to the digital generation, but they have to teach children who were born in it and who are sometimes more savvy than they are. Digital skills have also become a huge part of the job market – in a job market that increasingly puts an emphasis on an applicant’s digital skills, it’s almost impossible to find a job if you’re not tech savvy.

“Back to the future”

Now- a little bit of geek time! October 21st was “Back to the future” Day! For all fans of the 1985 and 1989 movies, this was the day when the truth came out: is 2015 as the movie makers imagined it 30 years ago? Hover-boards are still not a real thing, although technology has matched the writers’ imagination with gadgets such as video glasses, the existence of video calls, or big screen TVs. I believe this is our “back to the future” moment and we have the opportunity to change the world as we know it– 5 years from now, will we live in the Digital Single Market world? I hope so.

Andreea Ghita