This blog announces my book that I will publish in the first half of 2024. The book tells the story of 40 years of European digital policies, which started in the 80s.
The EU has managed to lessen fragmentation, substantially extending the Single Market to the digital realm. Many areas are now governed by a European legislative framework, which is necessary but insufficient to make Europe a leader in the digital world.
American and Asian companies dominate the global digital markets. Europe imports or depends on foreign companies to deliver cutting-edge microchips, computers, software, smartphones, social media, video streaming services, cloud computing, and App stores. Europe has only a few top-notch players in the game, such as SAP (founded in the 70s), ARM (founded in the 90s), ASLM (founded in the 90s), and perhaps Spotify. Europe’s digital strengths are linked to its industrial base, mainly automotive, as companies like Bosch, ST Micron or Infineon are testimony. Nokia and Ericsson are still thriving in mobile networks but are heavily challenged by Chinese, Korean, and American competitors.
Today’s digital strategy is burdened with a multitude of societal objectives. Digital policies, for instance, are supposed to prioritise being human-centred, fundamental rights-based, inclusive, transparent, and open. They should uphold the Union’s principles, rights, and values and ensure accessibility. These are commendable aspirations; however, the predicament lies in their overwhelming nature for the means of digital policy in general and at the EU level in particular. Furthermore, a notable absence is an emphasis on increased productivity, a crucial factor in driving sustainable growth.
Today’s living standards result from centuries of cumulative productivity increases. However, productivity growth often instils anxiety, as it is perceived to destroy jobs and negatively impact lives. In contrast, innovation, a key component of productivity, carries a positive connotation. Innovation is a favourite policy objective and gives rise to numerous programmes. While innovation is the holy grail of technology policy, you rarely encounter a programme titled ‘productivity growth’.
Europe does not face fundamental problems of technology or infrastructure. At the dawn of the internet, broadband was essential and enhancing fibre connection and fostering ubiquitous 5G have remained important, but these measures no longer address the most critical bottlenecks. However, what are these bottlenecks? The answer transcends the realm of digital policy as we know it. It takes us back to the beginning of this blog, which highlighted the absence of breakthrough innovations, entrepreneurship, and global digital companies. Talking abstractly about digital transformation does not give us a deeper understanding of what is required. We should find a better paradigm.