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This Digital trends exercise is divided in 2 parts in order to allow the reader to focus on his/her own interest:

2021 started a new decade. In the Brussels bubble, with a new decade come new objectives. A buzzword that will be heard a lot from digital policy in 2021 will be the “Digital Decade”, a new set of digital targets for 2030. The Commission shall announce them mid-March.

Digital Europe Programme

2021 will be the concretisation of the Digital Europe Programme. This programme will be a main investment vehicle for digital capacity building and deployment, mainly in 3 main digital technologies: High Performance Computing (HPC), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Cybersecurity. It also covers other technologies like blockchain, data spaces, quantum communication infrastructure, public service digital transformation, eGovernment, and so on.

The figure below presents the structure of the programme based on 5 pillars in a nutshell.

Beyond the technologies, there are 2 trends in the DEP that deserves our full attention in 2021.

Destination Earth initiative

This initiative will gathers the technologies from the 3 technologies pillars (HPC, AI and Cybersecurity) together “to develop a very high precision digital model of the Earth to monitor and simulate natural and human activity, and to develop and test scenarios for more sustainable development and for achieving both the green (Green Deal) and digital (Digital Strategy) priorities of the EU[1].

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/destination-earth-destine

European Digital Innovation Hubs

The European Digital Innovation Hubs are the last piece for the “EU-to-local” principle. The EDIHs will be the last mile link, with dedicated services to support deployment, take up and adoption of advanced digital solutions.

The EDIHs will be local one-stop shops for digital transformation. The Commission will fund around 300 EDIHs in EU (and beyond) and a network of cooperation between them. A first call will drive the activities in 2021.

Data Governance Act and Digital Service Act

From a legislative point of view, 2021 will see the development of 2 majors digital regulations.

The Data Gouvernance Act (DGA) aims at setting up a single data market at the EU level and tap the gold mine that is to be found in the industrial data hosted in EU companies and private data sources. The acts intends to foster trust in data exchanges and strengthen data-sharing mechanisms. The proposal has 8 chapters, focusing notably on the following 3 principle provisions:

  • Create a mechanism for enhancing the reuse of public sector data
  • Increase trustworthy private or industrial data sharing
  • Inspire citizens and companies to “data altruism”, i.e. voluntary-but-secured sharing of data for the benefit of society.

The expected results are European citizens with more control over their personal data and EU’s data sovereignty stronger.

After its adoption on 25 November 2020, the Commission had a public feedback period opened until 8 February 2021 (149 answers received). The legislative process will probably be concluded before 2022.

The Digital Service Act (DSA) aims at updating the 2000 e-commerce directive and regulating the content published on platforms as well as the platforms themselves. The DSA gives a definition of “illegal content” and forces hosting platform to develop capacities for detection and removal of illicit content.

The regulation also aims at enforcing:

  • Traceability of business users (making sure that a giant platform does not arbitrary stop the selling of a business products on a marketplace platform)
  • Researchers’ access to data on key platforms
  • Moderation obligations
  • The ease of switching platforms for users

Adopted by the Commission on 15 December 2020, the DSA will make online experiences safer and more explanative. It creates new obligations for users, businesses and platforms. It will be empowered with several Horizon Europe project tackling online disinformation.

The public consultation for the DSA ended in 2020. The text is now in the legislative process between the Council and the Parliament.

A third initiative, launched at the same time as the DSA, is the Digital Market Act (DMA) which addresses the marketplace aspect. Roughly, the DSA addresses the content, while the DMA addresses platform behaviours, especially the big ones.

Photos: European Commission

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