miércoles, 8 de mayo de 2019

It´s not EU cybersecurity, it´s EU strategic digital autonomy

Cybersecurity has climb to the category of a major concern in Europe in 2019. The European Union has adopted a in Q1 a Cybersecurity Act and it is working in building up a Network of Cybersecurity Centers to boost up the Cybersecurity industry, that jointly with the existing NIS Directive defines an extending cybersecurity legal framework. There´s also an expanding network of institutions to take care of the Europeans Cybersecurity, that some people fear have overlapping powers and may itself be the seed for cybersecurity gaps.

It looks also that there are some rationale and evidence for these concerns. The Huawei affair promoted by the Trump administration has provoked the adoption of EU coordinated measures to reinforce cyber security in the forthcoming 5G networks. It would not be strange that in order to keep geopolitical balance that some EU coordinated cyber security measures around cloud services may be promoted after the suspicion around Amazon has been raised by the German government. But are all these concerns really about cyber security or are cyber security concerns the proxy for other bigger concern?

The described cyber security concerns reflects not only policy-makers worries about trusted digital services, it reflects that Europe has lost any possible control of the digitalisation of its economy and society. The main EU networks manufacturers are Chinese, the most popular digital services among European citizens and companies are provided by US companies and there are not any popular end-user device designed and build within the Union borders. European companies have been totally wiped out of the list of the main tech companies, none of them are in the list of the 20 most valuable Internet companies or the top 10 electronics manufacturers.

The debate on EU cyber security strategy should be the tip of an even more important debate: EU strategic digital autonomy. Although it is still a concept on the making, the usual definition of the term "digital strategic autonomy" are the capabilities to protect its digital sovereignty. Setting up this EU digital strategic autonomy should be one of the goals of the forthcoming European Commission.

Europe has been successful in one of these capabilities to protect its digital sovereignty, the regulation of the digital space. Without any doubt, the European model of a regulated cyberspace has overrun the US laissez-faire model and it is behind the call for regulation of the digital giants. However, it maybe a temporary victory without if the EU is not able to build up the enivronment where tech champions can flourish in a quick manner. 

Although ethics and European values should be at the center of European digital policy, there are not alone the decisive factor for catching-up US and China in the tech race. As Daniel Castro, ITIF vice president, wisely remember "You can have the more ethical race car driver, but if his car is not faster, you are going to lose". EU policy papers are beginning to be flooded of terms as Ethic AI or human-center data economy, but we should recognize that we are are definitively lagging behind and bet on policies for creating a EU fabric of digital firms. 

The building up of the EU strategic digital autonomy start with choosing the areas to compete with the other blocs. We should forget about Europe as a global digital competitor, neither US or China compete in every area. Although there are basic areas where Europe has to develop its own capabilities (AI, 5G or cyber security), the competition on services should be more focused, for instance forgetting about B2C and giving the battle in the digitalisation of transport or health.

The second step is creating a toolbox for promoting the development and scale up of companies in the selected areas. Europe has accumulated a set of best practices that should be connected in a coherent digital policy in order to help digital companies to flourish. The promotion of the digital talent in the nordic countries, the development of an effective high-speed connectivity policy in Spain, the promotion of digital entrepreunership in the United Kingdom or the boost towards Industry 4.0 are some of the successful models that may be replicated  in the other EU countries taking into account its own specificities. 

Beyond the toolbox to create and scale up companies, it is important to promote the connection and the joining of efforts among them. Both the big and small ones. This should be the main space for the European Commission efforts, with a wise use of the MFF instruments with a mix of the definition of Airbus-like projects in some services areas, the creation of funding instruments based on public-private collaboration and the elimination of barriers for digital enterpreuners mobility across Europe.

Digitalisation should be one of the central policies of the next European Commission. Europe is not only on the brink of losing definitively the tech race, it is on the brink of losing its strategic digital autonomy, and therefore its capability to be influent in the XXI century global policy. To avoid this destiny, we need to create a fabric of digital firms capable to compete in basic digital technologies and key services areas where competition is a real option. Maybe, it is the last call for a digital future in Europe.

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