miércoles, 25 de enero de 2017

Three digital gaps to be filled in Europe

What should be the pillars of a successful policy for digital transformation? Maybe this is the question more hear in the management rooms of public and private sector. The digital basis set now will have a definite impact on the country or company for many years to come, so it is needed to identify a limited set of key projects which their development should be specially monitored. The approach to their identification can be more or less complex, a simple one could be the need to deploy the right infrastructures, set the conditions for a smart use of the available data and endow the population with the skills to use both.

Although it is not explicitly described in this manner, the above three pillars approach it is been followed by the European Commission in the development of its Digital Single Market strategy, the roadmap for Europe´s digital transformation.    Europe has major deficits in the three pillars that should be filled in order to ensure growth and jobs in the forthcoming years. The digital skills agenda, the roadmap for the Gigabit Society and the free flow of data initiative are the three levers that we should not failed to built up.

To begin with, it would be extremely difficult to take advantage of digital services and infrastructures without enough IT professionals and the population are not able to use the digital tools. The pool of digital talent will be irreparably empty if four of the major economies (France, Spain, Italy and Poland) are below the EU average percentage of IT professionals or if 40% of the EU population lacked the needed digital skills and 22% have no digital skills at all.

Regarding the network infrastructure, it looks that the deployment of NGA is steeping up in the last two years. However, there is still a major problem of adoption in an important group of economies and only 12 Member States are above the average. Among the laggers in the adoption of NGA we find again three major EU economies (Poland, Spain and Italy). Without the adoption of the current infrastructure no future jump to the Gigabit networks will be possible.

Last but not least, there is the question of data. The benefits from having quality network infrastructure and the people with enough digital skills is reaping from the smart exploitation of data. But taken advantage of the data pool of an organisation or country is based in its free flow and established rules for its access and sharing, as well of its usage as a currency in transactions.

Infrastructure, data and skills make a virtuous circle for the development of the digital economy. Other factors as cybersecurity or applications are important, but there are not as critically essential to set the wheels of growth and jobs in motion.

miércoles, 18 de enero de 2017

Are we facing the tip of a failed state?

As times goes by, it looks that the trend of outsourcing the censorship digital news is being consolidated. I am not a fan of any kind of censorship in any media, but for those case if is needed I see it as a mission that should be under severe control of governments. However, what started with the "right to be forgotten", later was extended with the "Code of Conduct on illegal online hate speech". In both cases, digital platforms are the final court for deciding on the retirement of contents from the network.

The collaboration with the platforms is probably a pragmatic approach, but what scares me it is the lack of transparency on the process. From time to time, Google publishes results of the application of the "right to be forgotten", and as fas as I know there is not an independent review of the report. Recently, during the review on the compliance of the code of conduct on illegal hate speech the results were criticised by the European Commission due to its dissapointing results, but the report was not completely published neither we have data from the platforms on the issue.

Outsourcing the patrolling of contents have also other downsides. Although the code of conduct has a wide scope, combating "public incitement to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined on the basis of race, colour, descent, religion or belief, or national or ethnic origin", the platforms could pick and choose their favourite targets. For instance, a couple of days after the review they team up to develop automatic solutions to combat the spread of terrorism apology, but no other form of illegal hate speech.

Therefore, it seems governments are unable to combat illegal hate speech and reinforce freedom on the network, while at the same time the help of the industry is far from be effective in all the areas. And the same it´s happening with other kind of illegal activities. Furthermore, the help of platforms to combat all these illegal activities is reduced to those areas they like to combat. We are growingly missing the tools to make effective parts of the law in the network.

A failed state is defined as a state “whose central government is so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory; non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality; refugees and involuntary movement of populations and sharp economic decline”. Some thinkers are begining to ask themselves if the Internet has not become a failed state. And it is the right question. What is the same as as asking for the sustainaibility of the network because no failed state could last.

miércoles, 11 de enero de 2017

5G in EU: Do we really have a plan?

One of the more pronounced phrases among the European technological sector is "Europe is lagging behind". Europe was once the home of the most important technological companies, now there is no remain of a European company among the 15 largest ICT companies. There are many reasons for the sectoral European decline, but perhaps the main reason is the decline in the European dominance of the mobile scenario. Europe was the home for GSM invention but,  it has been a follower of 4G deployment since the start of it. Both the global ICT decline and the mobile decline has happened in the same time space.

The rationale described above has a clear implication: Europe has to base the recovery of its technological force in winning the 5G race. Therefore, it looks sound that the European Commission has set as one of the strategic targets for the telecommunication sector "uninterrupted 5G coverage for all urban areas as well as major roads and railways". However it is worrisome that it has not set a this deadline in the press release, except for having "commercially availability of 5G in at least one major city in each EU Member State by 2020", which is a previous promise of the telecom sector. The ambiguous target has been set for two years after the forthcoming Korean trial in 2018 Olimpic Games.

Nevertheless, the Plan for 5G in Europe published by the European Commission gives more space to optimism. There we can find the missed deadline for the "uninterrupted 5G coverage for all urban areas as well as major roads and railways" in 2025.  Also there are a mix of actions that foreseen boosting investments (through the review of the regulatory framework), the creation of a 5G ecosystem (through the continuation of the actions within the H2020) and the works in the standarisation area (through establishing 5G as one of the standardisation priorities for Europe).

However, although the plan looks sound, there would be need concrete actions from Member States. The European Commission just only encourage the Member States to develop its national plans by 2017, but the support and pressure for its development from Brussels looks short. No clear incentives for this purpose are defined, like for instance taking out of the national deficit accounting the government support for 5G deployment or the relax of State Aid ruling in this area.

The 5G Plan for EU have shadowy and bright sides. Good central planning for some measures but improvable basis for the real deployment. We should wait and see its real impact, alas it could too late to rectify if something goes wrong.

palyginti kainas