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Equipping Europe for the digital age

In a fast-changing world, how do we ensure Europe’s society and economy are sufficiently robust to weather digital’s negative impacts while benefiting from its many benefits?

Debating the issue in the closing session of Net Futures 2017, entitled ‘Taking a whole economy, whole society approach – Policy choices for a digital age’, four experts all agreed that old thinking is redundant. “Data is very different from oil, which is limited and controlled by monopolies. A 21st-century data policy must be built on sharing and duplication,” said Michael Mandel of the Progressive Policy Institute.

Entrepreneur Sébastien Deletaille, from Real Impact Analytics, implored the EU to be more ambitious about digital and to encourage bottom-up investment – the sort of approach being employed by Julie Foulon, of MolenGeek, an incubator and coding school helping young people in Brussels to advance in the digital age against all odds. “Our initiative can be spread across Europe, but only if there are local champions,” said Folon.

Maximilian Strotmann from the European Commission said that the EU can add value to data by removing barriers to its connectivity and interoperability. He highlighted great progress in high-performance computing, where the EU has joined forces with member states and private companies.

The key to our economic future is education and new ways of thinking, added moderator Dharmendra Kanani of Friends of Europe. Closing the conference, Pearse O’Donohue from the European Commission’s DG Connect, summed up the discussions, observing that what is already clear, is that ‘humans must be at the centre of the web’.

The plenary marked the launch of the Friends of Europe discussion paper ‘Policy choices for a digital age – taking a whole economy, whole society approach’. The discussion paper highlights key trends, developments and issues across all layers of the digital ecosystem.

Featuring contributions from among others European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip, BlaBlaCar Founder and European Young Leader Frédéric Mazzella, and fellow European Young Leader Eva Maydell MEP, the paper aims to offer analysis on a range of key questions, identify common themes, build on the key points and highlight emerging trends relevant for decision-makers, business and citizens alike.

Download the discussion paper here.