EVP Vestager address to the 6th conference of the Technical University of Denmark "The road to a better digital future", Copenhagen 23 September 2022.
EVP Vestager recently (23 September 2022) addressed to the 6th conference of the Technical University of Denmark "The road to a better digital future", Copenhagen.
"Check against delivery"
"The road to a better digital future"
Good morning, everybody.
Congratulations on the organisation of the sixth edition of this very special conference. This event creates an important link between the users of technology, and the innovators who bring that technology to life. Not only is that exciting, but it has real benefits - both for the users who sometimes feel more and more distant from the technologies they rely on; and for the innovators, who face the challenge of optimising the user experience at every stage of development. That is why I am confident that this conference will be a success, just like the previous years.
We face many challenges. We need to fight climate change. And there's no fighting climate change without digital. We need to empower people to fight climate change.
In the policy world, we face a different kind of challenge, but one that is also quite important. Our job is to smoothen the path of technological progress.
I use this term ‘smoothen the path' on purpose. First of all, it makes something very clear - we as policymakers are not in the driving seat when it comes to technology and innovation. That is your role, as innovators and early adopters. It is your ideas, your risk-taking and your creative vision that will power us onwards, towards a new digital future. Our job is about making your ride as smooth as possible.
Investment in digital
We can do this in a number of different ways. First of all, we need to build the digital roads. The Recovery and Resilience Facility, which is a part of the EU Recovery Plan, has unlocked an unprecedented amount of funding - 670 billion euros. A quarter of that money is earmarked for the digital transition, public funding to lay the digital roadways our economies need - whether that is fibre or 5G.
But building the roads is not enough. We must also keep the roads clear of barriers. When large companies abuse their dominant positions in the market, they can stifle innovation and choke out new competitors. That is a barrier we have to remove. And in today's world, there are serious concerns about the market power of large digital platforms. For some time now, the EU has been leading the world in the effort to curb that power, through our antitrust enforcement cases. Now with a new law called the Digital Markets Act we will have even more powers to make sure large digital platforms do not squeeze out small businesses.
Digital skills and inclusiveness
‘Smoothening the path' towards a better digital future also means making sure everyone can come along for the ride. If ‘progress' means some people get left further and further behind, that is not the kind of progress any of us should want.
That is why we are paying so much attention to the Digital Skills Agenda. In 25 of the 27 national recovery plans, member states are directing a total of 28 billion euros of funding from the Recovery and Resilience Facility improving digital skills.
It is also why I admire the focus DTU has placed on inclusiveness in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. For example, the call for more girls and women in these disciplines is an important social goal, because as our economies become more digital, a better gender balance will help address existing earnings gaps between men and women. The same is true for race and ethnicity. But let me stress one thing: inclusiveness in tech is more than just a social goal. If we have more diversity in this community, the technology we produce will be better, because it will reflect a more diverse set of perspectives on the world.
AI and data strategy
Another aspect is establishing a clear and balanced regulatory environment. Artificial Intelligence can provide solutions to many of the problems we face. Simply by optimising inputs, we can create more prosperity while also reducing our ecological footprint - for example in agriculture, AI can help us use less fertilizer and seed, plant at just the right time, giving us better yields with fewer resources. The same goes for traffic jams in cities, logistics for shipping or waste recycling facilities. Once again, these are the very things you are working on here.
But the simple fact is that technological progress will only happen if people have trust in how these systems are being deployed. Otherwise, there will be pushback. Roadblocks, if you will. That is why Brussels came forward with a proposal for an AI Act, the first of its kind. This regulation will set the ground rules for how AI can be used, in particular when it comes to ‘high-risk' applications, where there is a risk of disrespecting our European values - for example, discrimination on the basis of gender, disability or ethnicity.
The same applies for how we regulate the use and ownership of data. Already with the GDPR, the EU blazed a trail for data protection. Now with our Data Strategy, we are going further. The first piece of this strategy, the Data Governance Act, just entered into force. It will facilitate data sharing and enable well-regulated data spaces in strategic areas like heath, energy and public administration. With the next piece, the Data Act, we are proposing to set rules regarding the use of data generated by Internet of Things devices.
Europeans must also feel that their data is safe and secure. That is why we have just proposed a Cyber Resilience Act, to establish common European cyber security standards for all digital products on the Single Market. Manufacturers will have a duty of care to address and report vulnerabilities.
By acting now, we can create transparency and clarity. This is not only reassuring to Europe's citizens, it is in fact also reassuring for our businesses. The last thing innovators or their investors want is an unclear regulatory environment, which could see them on the wrong side of the legal highway in a few years' time. Transparent and predictable rules will therefore help unlock more investment, and that will get research and innovation to market more quickly.
Of course, the EU does not exist in a bubble. That is why we are putting so much stock in cooperation with likeminded partners around the world. The US-EU Trade and Technology Council is a great example of this.
I know that over the past few years, the public mood has changed a little bit when it comes to technology. Frankly, I think that during the pandemic, we all spent a little too much time in front of our screens.
Still, I remain convinced that the future will be brighter and better, thanks to the ideas you are nurturing today. You have the energy, the expertise and the intelligence to make the green transition a prosperous one; to build medical and pharma solutions that keep us healthy and safe, and to make our lives more fun.
To get there, all you need is a good road to travel on.
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