Digital Assembly 2016: a summary by Osborne Clarke

Written on 21 Nov 2016

What better way to celebrate “Digital Week” than to attend the Digital Assembly 2016, organised by the European Commission in cooperation with the Slovak Presidency of the EU Council? And that’s precisely what Stefania Grosso, a paralegal in Osborne Clarke’s London office did. She joined almost one thousand policy-makers, researchers and representatives of industry, start-ups, NGOs, etc. in Bratislava, Slovakia, to discuss the creation of the Digital Single Market.

In this article Stefania reports on what happened and provides some insights into the future of the Digital Single Market.

What happened?

The two day event was split between a first day dedicated to workshops and a second day plenary session.

Day one: The workshops

There were 6 parallel workshops on the agenda:

  • Digitising European – Industry boosting Digital Innovation Hubs across Europe
  • E-Commerce and Online Platforms
  • Improving access to content in the DSM
  • Connected and Automated Driving
  • Internet of Things and ePrivacy
  • Gigabit Society

Osborne Clarke was invited to take part in the workshop on e-commerce and platforms, where the stakeholders debated:

  • e-commerce trends, focusing in particular on omni-channel retail, with BEUC (The European Consumer Organisation) concerned about online platforms concentration;
  • cashless payments, recognising their importance as a disrupting tool for people without bank accounts; and
  • AI to enhance users’ search experience, with eBay referring to their sellers as “micro-multinationals”.

According to DIGITALEUROPE, the main focus of the workshop on the Internet of Things and ePrivacy was:

  • the value of introducing an IoT trust label vs IoT trust charter to aid in the uptake of IoT solutions in Europe;
  • the need for a new ePrivacy legislation; and
  • how to ensure the confidentiality of communications in the future.

According to the GSMA, in the workshop on connected and automated driving, participants:

  • recognised that automated driving isn’t just about connectivity, but also about sensors, cameras, radars and other advanced technology; and
  • stressed the importance of collaboration among different sectors for driverless cars to become commonplace on Europe’s roads.

Day two: The plenary session

During the plenary session – besides the interesting “TEDtalk”-like on Artificial Emotional Intelligence given by Prof. Maja Pantic from the Imperial College London, the presentation of Aeromobil by its passionate CEO, Juraj Vaculik, and the Irish first rural digital hub (the “Ludgate Initiative”) presented by its CEO, Grainne Dwyer – important policy-makers intervened, including the Prime Minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico and his Vice-Prime Minister, Peter Pellegrini, as well as the European Commission’s Vice-President Andrus Ansip and Commissioner Gunther Oettinger.

Their speeches included the following insights into the future of the Digital Single Market:

EU Council

The Slovak Presidency will focus on the following five areas:

  • Education, to implement a ICT-based personalised approach from primary to professional education;
  • Entrepreneurship, to address the need to find new ways to use skills and combine them with the current technology;
  • Research, to use technology as a problem-solver (e.g. health, aging, government, etc.);
  • Infrastructure, to build world class networks to support IoT, connected cars, etc.; and
  • Cyber security and privacy, to protect these ICT infrastructures and personal data.

European Commission

Vice-President Ansip pointed out how smart technologies already exist. According to Cisco, 50 billion devices and objects will be connected to the internet by 2020, and Mr Ansip invited Europeans to not be afraid of data.

Key priorities for the European Commission to deal with in the near future are:

  • Data access. The Commission considers that the vast majority of constraints on smart technologies have nothing to do with privacy or cybersecurity, but rather with data access, highlighting once more how data localisation rules lead to fragmentation.
  • Removal of data location regulations. The Commission will focus on the removal of unnecessary legal and technical barriers to the free flow of data – starting from data location regulations currently in place at national level.
  • Assisting start-ups. Paul Hofheinz, President of the Lisbon Council and coordinator European Digital Forum presented the Scale Up Manifesto. The manifesto contains 49 recommendations divided into 6 steps-chapters: (i) complete the Single Market; (ii) mobilise capital; (iii) activate talent; (iv) power innovation; (v) broaden education; (vi) monitor, measure and evaluate.

In summary

The common themes of the Digital Assembly were the push towards: (i) innovative polices; (ii) increased connectivity; and (iii) digitalisation of the EU economy.

Despite this, the final thought must go to the Slovak Presidency, who said:

People and not machines will shape our future – it’s always better to drink your coffee with a friend in the town bar, than alone at home with your smartphone.