Joe Tanti, MBB CEO
This Opinion Piece featured on Malta Business Weekly, on Sunday 18th December 2022
In recent years the EU has embarked on a robust digital agenda by setting ambitious targets through the so-called Europe’s Digital Decade for the year 2030, which will create the conditions to facilitate the twin transition to a green and digital economy.
Digitalisation remains one of the key solutions for companies in becoming economically resilient. The EU’s digital strategy provides a good framework to ensure digital security, innovation, and economic competitiveness. Nonetheless, digitalisation comes with its own set of challenges as the increased dependence on technology leads to a digital divide between different generations, geographic regions, and social positions.
The EU’s digital agenda is driven by the so-called digital compass. This outlines concrete policies, targets, and benchmarks to measure the plan’s progress in attaining digital skills, digital infrastructures, fostering digital businesses, and the take up of digital public services. For instance, the EU aims for a 75% take-up by companies in using Cloud / AI / Big Data, to create an environment of innovators, as well as to ensure that more than 90% of SMEs in Europe adopt at least a basic level of digital intensity.
To this end, the targets for Europe’s Digital Decade are coupled with an extensive legal framework that aims to work in favour of achieving these goals. The plan has a twofold mission. On the one hand it focuses on a wide range of factors including digital skills, infrastructure, and the digital readiness of businesses and public services. On the other hand, the EU also foresees actions that seek to protect citizens and businesses from the risks of digital technologies.
In recent years, the EU has been trying to strike a balance between providing space for innovation whilst proposing several legislative frameworks that aim to modernise activities that depend or are highly impacted by digitalisation. Risks brought about by digitalisation include the need to retain the human control over artificial intelligence, management of personal data, malicious cyberactivity as well as counterfeit products, cybertheft and misinformation. The non-exhaustive list of legal frameworks that the EU has created in addressing these challenges include the likes of the Digital Services Act, the Digital Markets Act, the Data Act, the Artificial Intelligence Act, and the Artificial Intelligence Liability Act.
Looking closer at these legislations, the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act aim to create a safer digital space which protect the fundamental rights of users as well as establish a level playing field for businesses. Whilst the Digital Services Act seeks to counter illegal content online, including illegal goods and services, the Digital Markets Act has identified companies as gatekeepers and these companies will need to conform in making the markets more open and competitive.
Meanwhile, the Data Act seeks to make data sharing, use, and reuse easier to establish the EU as a leader in the global data-driven economy. Furthermore, in reaction to the increased research and development in artificial intelligence (AI) technology, the Commission has proposed the Artificial Intelligence Act which seeks to balance the protection of fundamental rights and user safety, whilst still encouraging the use and development of AI. Complementing the AI Act is the proposed Artificial Intelligence Liability Act which introduces rules specific to damages caused by AI systems in favour of victims of the technology who seek reparations.
Meeting the objectives set for Europe’s Digital Decade for 2030 remains a very ambitious task. The pathway is well rounded and goes beyond legislation as it also aims to having positive impacts on communities through different policy programmes and multi-country projects. Through its digital plan, the EU aims to further empower businesses and citizens and seeks to ensure that coined terms such as ‘’human-centric’’ and ‘’sustainable vision’’ do not remain just buzzwords.
Locally, our priority remains to continue promoting digital transformation of the business community. The quicker the adoption of digital technologies by business of all sizes and across all sectors, the better the chances that we become more economically resilient and position ourselves as a competitive destination to do business in this digital decade.
Joe Tanti is the CEO of the Malta Business Bureau. The MBB is the EU advisory organisation of the Malta Chamber and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, and a partner of the Enterprise Europe Network. Mr. Tanti can be contacted on email@example.com