Saturday 22 April 2017

ICT standardisation in EU digital single market context

A little before the European standardisation package, the Commission published a communication related to the digital single market, on standardisation regarding information and communication technology (ICT) :

ICT Standardisation Priorities for the Digital Single Market; Brussels, 19.4.2016 COM(2016) 176 final (14 pages)

The aim of this blog post is to put ICT standardisation into the context of the (future) digital single market.

Juncker’s political guidelines

The 2014 political guidelines of Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker contain ten priorities; among them (as number 2) is a connected digital single market, as presented in the publication A New Start for Europe.

Juncker’s aims are worth remembering:

I believe that we must make much better use of the great opportunities offered by digital technologies, which know no borders. To do so, we will need to have the courage to break down national silos in telecoms regulation, in copyright and data protection legislation, in the management of radio waves and in the application of competition law.

If we do this, we can ensure that European citizens will soon be able to use their mobile phones across Europe without having to pay roaming charges. We can ensure that consumers can access services, music, movies and sports events on their electronic devices wherever they are in Europe and regardless of borders. We can create a fair level playing field where all companies offering their goods or services in the European Union are subject to the same data protection and consumer rules, regardless of where their server is based. By creating a connected digital single market, we can generate up to € 250 billion of additional growth in Europe in the course of the mandate of the next Commission, thereby creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs, notably for younger job-seekers, and a vibrant knowledge-based society.

To achieve this, I intend to take, within the first six months of my mandate, ambitious legislative steps towards a connected digital single market, notably by swiftly concluding negotiations on common European data protection rules; by adding more ambition to the ongoing reform of our telecoms rules; by modernising copyright rules in the light of the digital revolution and changed consumer behaviour; and by modernising and simplifying consumer rules for online and digital purchases. This should go hand-in-hand with efforts to boost digital skills and learning across society and to facilitate the creation of innovative start-ups. Enhancing the use of digital technologies and online services should become a horizontal policy, covering all sectors of the economy and of the public sector.

Annually the European Commission adopts its work programme (CWP in Brussels bubblese). In the 2015 CWP communication Commission Work Programme 2015 - A New Start COM(2014) 910, the Commission outlined the promised digital single market strategy (page 6), also mentioned in the annex with new initiatives.

Digital single market

During its first full year in office, the Juncker Commission published the communication, as promised:

A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe; Brussels, 6.5.2015 COM(2015) 192 final (20 pages)

The DSM communication was accompanied by the valuable Commission staff working document underpinning the proposed actions:

A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe - Analysis and Evidence; Brussels, 6.5.2015 SWD(2015) 100 final (109 pages)
An introductory digital single market blog post on my Finnish blog Eurooppaoikeus: EU:n digitaalisten sisämarkkinoiden strategia (11 April 2017).

The DSM Communication COM(2015) 192 started (p. 2) with the same quote from the political guidelines we saw above, before presenting the three pillars of the digital single market strategy:

  • Better access for consumers and businesses to online goods and services across Europe – this requires the rapid removal of key differences between the online and offline worlds to break down barriers to cross-border online activity.  
  • Creating the right conditions for digital networks and services to flourish – this requires high-speed, secure and trustworthy infrastructures and content services, supported by the right regulatory conditions for innovation, investment, fair competition and a level playing field.  
  • Maximising the growth potential of our European Digital Economy – this requires investment in ICT infrastructures and technologies such as Cloud computing and Big Data, and research and innovation to boost industrial competi[ti]veness as well as better public services, inclusiveness and skills.  

Standards came into play in section 4.2. Boosting competitiveness through interoperability and standardisation (p. 15-16), including this paragraph:

Standardisation has an essential role to play in increasing interoperability of new technologies within the Digital Single Market. It can help steer the development of new technologies such as 5G wireless communications, digitisation of manufacturing (Industry 4.0) and construction processes, data driven services, cloud services, cybersecurity, e-health, e-transport and mobile payments. The EU Rolling Plan for ICT Standardisation is an essential instrument in this regard. However, an increased effort is needed to ensure that standardisation output keeps pace with changes in technologies. Currently, industry stakeholders decide 'bottom-up' in which areas to develop standards and this is increasingly taking place outside of Europe, undermining our long-term competitiveness. We need to define missing technological standards that are essential for supporting the digitisation of our industrial and services sectors (e.g. Internet of Things, cybersecurity, big data and cloud computing) and mandating standardisation bodies for fast delivery.

This boiled down to the promised action (p. 20):

  • Adoption of a Priority ICT Standards Plan and extending the European Interoperability Framework for public services (2015)

EP resolution on digital single market

Under procedure 2015/2147(INI), we take note of the European Parliament resolution P8_TA(2016)0009 of 19 January 2016 on Towards a Digital Single Market Act, with the dedicated section 4.2. Boosting competitiveness through interoperability and standardisation (paragraphs 109-112), inter alia:

109. Considers that the European ICT standardisation plan and revision of the interoperability framework, including the Commission’s mandates to European standardisation organisations, should be part of a European digital strategy to create economies of scale, budget savings and improved competitiveness for European companies, and to increase cross-sectoral and cross-border interoperability of goods and services through the faster definition, in an open and competitive way, of voluntary, market-driven and global standards that are easily implemented by SMEs; encourages the Commission to ensure that standardisation processes include all relevant stakeholders, attract the best technologies and avoid the risk of creating monopolies or closed value chains, especially for SMEs and start-ups, and to actively promote European standards internationally in light of the global nature of ICT standardisation initiatives;

110. Urges the Commission and the Council to increase the share of free and open source software and its reuse in and between public administrations as a solution to increase interoperability;

Rolling Plan for ICT Standardisation

The Commission web page ICT standardisation offers us an overview, as well as link to the page 2017 Rolling Plan for ICT Standardisation released. You can download  the executive summary or the full plan.  

Ralf Grahn

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