An inclusive Digital Union for Europe
Europe is undergoing a digital revolution. We can see its impact on our daily lives: from online voting to faster broadband, from better ways to communicate to online shopping, and from useful digital tools to new hi-tech industries and jobs.
We welcome the opportunities this revolution offers for all European citizens and want to tackle potential challenges head on.
Can the digital economy change our lives for the better?
The Journal for a Progressive Economy has dedicated Issue 6 to the challenges and opportunities of the Digital Union. Leading economists and policy-makers consider creating the right conditions for the new world of work, how the digital revolution can be an equal revolution and the role of start-ups and innovation in leading the charge.
Read more about how we can harness new technologies and digital innovations here.
Digital jobs for all
- capitalise on the skills, knowledge and experience we already have to make sure Europe is ready to meet the challenge so we can create more and better jobs in the EU.
- focus on training, retraining and life-long learning to support and prepare our workforce, and seize this new opportunity.
- encourage social partners to support workers through transformations in the economy and workplaces, in particular by supporting people in need, defending labour rights and building strong partnerships.
- research new forms of employment arrangements and ways to safeguard job quality, including modernising social security systems, labour law, social dialogue and collective bargaining, whilst maintaining high levels of protection for employees.
- ensure that a transition towards a digital working environment does not undermine European working and employment standards, including labour law, health and safety regulations, data protection and consumer-protection standards.
- monitor the qualitative and quantitative effects of the digital economy on employment – the digital dividend from gains in digital productivity should benefit all, not just the employers.
Industry and innovation
- promote start-up accelerator programmes to help great ideas grow and evolve.
- develop innovative cross-border European hubs to create regions with concentrations of skills and businesses to generate new jobs and opportunities.
- seek closer co-operation between well-established companies and new start-ups to promote an integrated, sustainable and competitive 'digital manufacturing' industrial model.
- create technology centres in less-industrialised European regions to help boost local economies and share innovation and access to information with start-ups and small businesses from all over Europe.
- support open standards to foster collective working and innovation. Open source and open access accelerate innovation processes and improve research and development. New ideas, products and services should be encouraged to embrace inter-operability, independence and portability.
- develop European inter-operability standards, solutions and frameworks.
- ensure that new technologies promote sustainable growth, enhance quality of life, address climate change and energy efficiency issues, including disposal and reuse.
- promote and encourage the re-use of public sector information.
- allow all European citizens easy access to more online administration services, with greater cross-border inter-operability of electronic ID schemes.
- use the opportunities of big data technology to improve public data sources and develop smart and sustainable solutions in areas such as public transport, smart cities, agriculture and maritime sectors.
- encourage digitisation in European and national public administrations to make them modern and cost-effective.
- prioritise high-speed connectivity for all, covering all parts of the European Union including rural and remote areas.
- use public and private financing for inclusive digital infrastructure.
- support small businesses and citizens – especially the elderly and people with disabilities – to ensure inclusive and border-free access to digital services.
- embed digital skills in school curricula from primary level upwards.
- develop digital education programmes adapted to both girls and boys.
- promote STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics) subjects in higher education.
- guarantee open access to digital education and ICT tools.
Online rights: trust and fairness
Trust: data protection and cyber-security
- implement the Data Protection Package, which must make protecting citizens a priority.
- ensure that digital technologies that use big data respect personal privacy.
- implement the Network Information Security (cyber-security) directive to ensure better co-operation to deal with cyber-attacks.
- work with digital companies to prevent cyber-bullying and promote 'online best behaviour'.
- promote digital literacy development targets at a global level.
- guarantee online protection for vulnerable people – especially children and online abuse. An open and free internet for all does not mean an internet without rules.
- analyse the cultural and societal impact of a digitised society.
A fair deal for consumers
- end mobile phone and data roaming charges inside the EU and ensure that cross-border call charges are fair.
- guarantee legal certainty for genuine net neutrality to ensure all internet traffic is treated equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference. Traffic management should only be allowed in exceptional circumstances and within clear legal limits.
- improve consumer protection (including universal service provision) in electronic telecommunications framework rules.
- ensure that the E-commerce Directive protects consumers and creates a fairer, innovation-friendly online environment.
- establish a Europe-wide labelling scheme to inform consumers about receiver performance in mobile phones.
- enforce EU competition rules to prevent excessive market concentration and abuse, to monitor competition for bundled content and services, and consider rules to unbundle search engines from other commercial services.
- review the business practices of 'sharing economy' platforms and consider a framework for platforms in the digital economy.
- regulate content, access or privacy and data protection in the same way for so-called 'over the top' providers as for the traditional telecoms and audiovisual services.
- find a fair solution to geo-blocking so paid content or information can be accessed in another EU country without restricting the digital economy or pushing EU consumers to use illegal tools to get round it.
- ensure a co-ordinated, fair and sustainable tax policy adapted to the digital economy.
- review European copyright laws to ensure that they will support public access to cultural goods while finding balanced solutions to guarantee creators' rights, fair remuneration and investment in the cultural sectors.
What do we mean by a Digital Union?
The European Commission has proposed a digital strategy to address some of these changes, but we want to go further. We want to see digital issues embedded into all aspects of European life – a real Digital Union.
We want to ensure that the digitisation of our societies and economies can be harnessed to advance our fundamental values and protect freedom, justice, pluralism, accessibility and solidarity. Digital innovation must be developed in ways that will help communities prosper and promote human dignity, self-determination, the rule of law, privacy, ethnic and cultural diversity, free speech and democracy.
As digital issues are cross-cutting and link many different areas, including single market and industrial policies, we want to make sure all policy-makers, trade unions, social and cultural partners, civil society and entrepreneurs work together to address the different aspects of the digital economy in line with our social democratic values and our vision. Want more details? Read the S&Ds' position paper on the Digital Union.
Digital doubts? Get to the bottom of the technobabble with our glossary.
What are the benefits?
Digitisation is transforming our future economies and our societies. The benefits are clear: job creation, competitiveness, consumer choice and sustainable growth.
Smart information and communications technology solutions will connect countries, regions, cities, rural communities, businesses and citizens across Europe to improve the quality of our lives in resource-efficient ways.
Europe's policies must reflect the latest innovations and ensure that they create the foundations to build a properly functioning, inclusive, digital society both in Europe and across the world.
New technological and digital innovation can help tackle social inequalities and discrimination and promote openness, fairness, transparency, sustainability and accountability in our society.
What are we campaigning for?
The S&D Group is working hard to ensure that all upcoming EU laws and funds go towards our aim of completing an inclusive Digital Union.
We want the EU to:
- support the adaptations and innovations needed to change Europe's industrial base.
- invest in digital infrastructure, e-government and e-skills.
- commit to creating jobs for all – building on existing social and employment rules to adapt to new ways of working and promote funding for training and retraining.
- make EU law digital, trusted, fair and responsible - by implementing the Data Protection rules.
- build trust by ensuring that citizens are protected online and electronic communications and networks technology are secure, especially for small businesses.
- review European copyright laws to ensure that they will support public access to culture while finding balanced solutions to guarantee creators' rights and user access, ensure fair remuneration and promote investment in the cultural sector.
- find a fair EU-level solution to geo-blocking.
- propose a fair, competitive and consumer-friendly legal framework for all businesses who operate in the European digital market.
- provide affordable and accessible connectivity for all, across the whole of the EU.
- ensure a co-ordinated, fair and sustainable tax policy in the digital economy.
Glossary: decrypting the jargon
Big data - data collection and analysis on a large scale only now possible thanks to new technologies.
Bundling/unbundling - marketing technique of combining services into a single package, eg selling phone, internet and TV services together.
Cyber-attacks/security - deliberate attempts to damage, disrupt or gain unauthorised access to a computer or electronic communications network, sometimes on a very large scale and directed against organisations or companies. Cyber-security covers measures to prevent and detect cyber-attacks.
Digital agenda - the European Commission launched the 'Digital agenda for Europe' in 2010 as part of the Europe 2020 strategy, focusing on harnessing digital technologies to boost the European economy. In 2015, the Commission launched an updated 'Digital Single Market Strategy'which is more limited in scope than the Digital Union the S&Ds want to create.
Digital divide - the economic and social divisions caused by different levels of access to online services, eg certain age groups or income levels may be increasingly excluded due to a lack of skills or equipment.
Digital literacy - the informed skills to search,, comprehend, assess and create information from electronic sources.
E-government - using technology to provide better public services to citizens and businesses, including rethinking the way organisations and processes work. Examples include online voting, platforms for citizens to pay taxes or smart ideas like reporting potholes via your phone.
Geo-blocking - different types of marketing practices that erect artificial digital barriers between EU countries and prevent consumers accessing digital services or products outside their member state.
IP - internet provider/intellectual property/internet protocol (a convention for sending data across a network).
Net neutrality - the principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference, irrespective of its sender, receiver, type, content, device, service or application.
Open access - free online access to scientific information (often publicly funded research).
Open source - software which is publicly available so anyone can access, use or change the code, usually within a framework licence.
Over-the-top providers or OTT - digital service providers (mostly telecoms and audiovisual) who do not have to comply with traditional (non-digital) competition rules.
Portability - the possibility of using software and digital content outside the country where it was bought.
Roaming - using mobile phones outside the area where the service was purchased, with or without an extra charge from the service provider, including phone calls and data.
Sharing economy - the economic model where individuals can rent or borrow goods or services directly from the owners.
STEM subjects - science, technology, education and mathematics: the key digital skills we need to invest in for the future.
Technology neutrality - ensuring regulations apply equally across different platforms using alternative technologies to deliver similar products.
Universal service - the minimum service, set out in the Universal Service Directive, available to all users and in the future all telecom and data services regardless of geographical location at an affordable price.