EU-Asia digital cooperation: investments for recovery and resilience

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EU-Asia digital cooperation: investments for recovery and resilience

Summary

The COVID-19 crisis has arguably opened up a “once in a lifetime opportunity to stop hurtling down the path we have been for the last 30 years” and create a cleaner, more sustainable and inclusive future. Those were the opening words of Ashish Kumar Gupta, Corporate Vice-President and Head of Europe and Africa at IT service provider HCL Technologies, which partnered with Friends of Europe to hold an online debate on EU-Asia digital cooperation on 19 November.

In the current economic crisis, digital has become even more of a lifeline for individuals and countries, said moderator Dharmendra Kanani. The dynamics are already changing and in the next 10 years the tech world will be bending towards the South and Asia. Europe has traditionally looked west, but as the EU plans to deepen its investment into digital connectivity as part of its recovery and growth strategy, how can it reset its relationships and start to look east first?

EU and Asia: a new ecosystem?

How do you create an ecology – including emerging players – that fosters a “very different temperament” around the EU-Asia relationship?

  • 20:50 – When we say Asia people often think ‘China’… but we’re fully aware Asia is much bigger… 24:58 – “When developing connectivity it is important for us to facilitate fair competition, avoid excessive debts on the part of the recipient countries and ensure transparency and sustainability”. [Stefan Schnorr]
  • 1:09 – “For the Asian countries, negotiating as a regional bloc is really important because that’s when we will have economic and regional power. Europe should encourage that instead of continually doing bilateral negotiations.” [Helani Galpaya]
  • 1:12 – It’s important to “help the parts of Asia which are completely excluded from the benefits – that is the area where we have to invest in our relationship between the EU and this part of the world”. [Isabelle Durant]

Digitalisation and development

How can increased digital connectivity play a role in overcoming poverty and inequality?

  • 44:48 The “wave of digitalisation is also a huge opportunity”. [Helani Galpaya]
  • 1:09 – Europe is still not one of the biggest funders in Asian countries – it’s still important in particular sectors but they are not working on the “broad soft infrastructure”; that needs to be a focus of development funding. [Helani Galpaya]
  • 14:21 – It’s important to remember that connectivity is still a huge challenge for many parts of Asia, especially in rural areas. [Isabelle Durant]

Rules and regulations: friend or foe?

The EU’s work on regulatory issues such as data protection is widely lauded, but can it also hamper innovation, especially for smaller and medium-sized businesses?

  • 45:41 – “This is where Europe can really set the tone”…. but because of its “rigid nature”, it’s hard for small businesses. [Helani Galpaya]
  • 50:27 – “Platforms have a much bigger regulatory power on public opinion and speech than any GDPR… this is one of these taboos in Europe – we were right on the value side, but today [GDPR is] acting as a fantastic barrier of entry for all the new players.” [André Loesekrug-Pietri]
  • 1:03 – Regulation can help but can also “hinder innovation and cooperation”, so a flexible regulatory framework is needed. [Stefan Schnorr]
  • 1:12 – “COVID has shown the vulnerability of our system. We cannot be blind regarding what could happen if we are really trying to have a digital world without rules…” [Isabelle Durant]
  • 1:18 – “Regulation is important but you cannot outcompete the world using regulation, you have to outcompete using innovation…” [Ashish Kumar Gupta]

Where are the women?

Women are now re-shaping the world in so many ways, but they’re still being left out of the game in tech.

  • 15:23 Women are often forgotten when exploring the link between private sector and policy development processes: “It’s so important to make visible, and really empower, women in this sector. We need a community of women digital entrepreneurs in South/Southeast Asia.” 1:11 – Women are sometimes more pragmatic and could help identify ways to support small platforms. [Isabelle Durant]
  • 30:50 – There must be a deliberate effort in terms of gender-positive policies and capacity-building, as well as encouraging more women to train in tech-related sciences. [Kenyan Ambassador to the EU Jacob Thuranira Kaimenyi]
  • 1:19 – The ratio of women working in IT in India has increased to up to 40% – getting more women to impact technology needs to start from primary school. [Ashish Kumar Gupta]

Europe needs to grasp the future

As part of a reset, how can Europe improve its competitiveness and standing in the digital sphere?

  • 34:48 – Why is there not a big European player like WeChat or WhatsApp? [Yuwen Li-Schrijrer, Erasmus University]
  • 37:12 – The problem is not the ownership of the companies, it’s the business model, and the fact that the economic benefits of that system are not well shared. The problem is how Europe, Africa or Asia are also trying to develop platforms on that same model. [Isabelle Durant]
  • 52:07 – One of Europe’s collective “failures” is the lack of a digital market… where is the European diplomacy; the “single digital market?”… “What are we waiting for?” [André Loesekrug-Pietri]
  • 53:44 – “Europe lacks audacity”… why don’t we ask the big platforms to localise and allow our local players to do much better?… “What we need to make sure of is to invent the next big thing” which is why we focus on creating the tech of tomorrow and not fighting “the battles of today”. [André Loesekrug-Pietri]
  • 58:10 – It’s difficult to believe the EU can have an edge in the digital development we’re witnessing because it naturally applies a “conservative, traditional” approach based on “preventing anybody else doing something better”. [Arnaldo Abruzzini]
  • 1:05 – Google and Amazon are today’s tech giants – “what will come tomorrow?” [André Loesekrug-Pietri]
About

About

Europe and Asia are deeply linked through trade, economic and political interactions. They have also both suffered greatly from the pandemic and the drastic measures needed to curb the spread of the virus. But while the outbreak of COVID-19 has exacerbated existing trends and inequalities, it has also forced societies to quicken the pace of the digital transition and opened new doors for technological innovation.

Generating a sustainable, inclusive economic growth model of recovery and resilience will depend not only on international cooperation, but also on multi-stakeholder dialogue which addresses the challenges presented by this new wave of technology.

This Café Crossfire debate is part of Friends of Europe’s work on digitalisation, which helps think through the implications of the digital revolution, bringing together a wide range of stakeholder and community perspectives and experiences to play a role in shaping policy thinking and developments. We work across policy areas, taking a whole society, whole economy approach to ensure that digital is a force for good and that citizens are empowered to navigate a digital 21st century.


Our events include photos, audio and video recording that we might use for promotional purposes. By registering, you give your permission to use your image. Should you have any questions, please contact us.

PHOTO CREDIT: Randall Bruder on Unsplash

Schedule

Schedule

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EU-Asia digital cooperation: investments for recovery and resilience Expand EU-Asia digital cooperation: investments for recovery and resilience

Europe and Asia are deeply linked through trade, economic and political interactions. They have also both suffered greatly from the pandemic and the drastic measures needed to curb the spread of the virus. But while the outbreak of COVID-19 has exacerbated existing trends and inequalities, it has also forced societies to quicken the pace of the digital transition and opened new doors for technological innovation.

Digital innovation is now, more than ever, the best way of generating green, inclusive growth. While the EU plans to deepen its investment into digital connectivity as part of its recovery and growth strategy – including further development of 5G networks – Asia is one of the most vibrant economic regions in the world and is leading growth of the digital economy.

Indeed, interactions between Europe and Asia increasingly involve the tech sector. The EU maintains annual ICT dialogues and working groups with many of its Asian partners – including China, India, Japan and South Korea. The digital economy forms an integral part of trade negotiations. And discussions over issues such as AI, blockchain, 5G and the internet of things take place through various fora on a regular basis.

A just and fair global recovery depends not only on international cooperation, but also on multi-stakeholder dialogue which addresses the challenges presented by a new wave of technology. Modern trade agreements reflecting mutual and shared needs have the potential to drive Asia-EU relations into a new phase, re-setting traditional frameworks that have too often thought ‘west first’. Getting this right will be at the heart of generating a sustainable, inclusive economic growth model of recovery and resilience. As Europe and Asia reflect on their next moves, it will be important for the Asian tech sector to be at the heart of these conversations.

  • What role can the tech industry play in helping to foster recovery and resilience post-COVID 19?
  • How can Europe and Asia work together to improve digital infrastructure and communication worldwide?
  • How can tech players be better involved in shaping policy and investment in digital infrastructures to address the current and future needs of citizens and industries?

Speakers

Isabelle Durant

Acting Secretary-General of UNCTAD, former deputy prime minister of Belgium and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Helani Galpaya

Chief Executive Officer of LIRNEasia

Ashish Kumar Gupta

Corporate Vice President and Head for Europe and Africa (Diversified Industries) at HCL Technologies

André Loesekrug-Pietri

Chairman of the Joint European Disruptive Initiative (JEDI) and 2013 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Stefan Schnorr

Director-General for Digital and Innovation Policy at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy

Moderator

Dharmendra Kanani

Director, Asia, Peace, Security & Defense, Digital & Chief spokesperson

End of online debate
Speakers

Speakers

Isabelle Durant
Isabelle Durant

Acting Secretary-General of UNCTAD, former deputy prime minister of Belgium and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Show more information on Isabelle Durant

With a distinguished career in Belgian and European politics, Isabelle Durant has held the offices of Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Transport and Energy, and Senator in the Belgian Government. She also served as Vice-President of the European Parliament and President of the European Union Council of Ministers of Transport. With a wealth of experience collaborating with civil society and the private sector, her time as European Parliament Vice-President included responsibility for relations with civil society. Durant has held posts as a senior consultant on the empowerment of women in local government for the UNDP and as a member of Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region in Belgium.

Helani Galpaya
Helani Galpaya

Chief Executive Officer of LIRNEasia

Show more information on Helani Galpaya

Helani Galpaya researches and engages in public discourse on issues related to net neutrality, policy and regulatory barriers in internet access, e-government and broadband quality of service. She also studies the changing nature of labour as a result of digitisation. Galpaya serves on several boards, including the Board of Editors of the Information Technology & International Development journal and the Board of Directors of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. She is also a member of the UN Internet Governance Forum’s Multistakeholder Advisory Group and was previously an advisor to the UN Broadband Commission’s Working Group on Bridging the Gender Divide.

Photo of André Loesekrug-Pietri
André Loesekrug-Pietri

Chairman of the Joint European Disruptive Initiative (JEDI) and 2013 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on André Loesekrug-Pietri

André is an entrepreneur and has held leadership positions in private equity, government and industry. He is currently the Chairman of JEDI, which aims to accelerate Europe’s leadership by financing and nurture the development of breakthrough technologies. André previously served as a special advisor to the French Minister of Defence, where he was responsible in particular for European defence policy, as well as technology and innovation, prior to which he has 15 years of experience in private equity and venture capital. André is a lecturer at SciencesPo and a regular columnist at several international media outlets. He has also studied aerospace engineering, and is a private pilot and Colonel with the French Air Force People’s Reserve.

Photo of Ashish Kumar Gupta
Ashish Kumar Gupta

Corporate Vice President and Head for Europe and Africa (Diversified Industries) at HCL Technologies

Show more information on Ashish Kumar Gupta

Under Ashish Kumar Gupta’s leadership, HCL has grown to become one of the more recognised IT service providers in Europe. His work for the company has focused on building business and ensuring the success of these proposals across India, the United States and – since 2004 – in Europe and Africa. This includes the conceptualization and execution of Remote Infrastructure Management Services that eventually led to the formation of a large Indian infrastructure outsourcing industry. Gupta has been instrumental in creating key alliances and partnerships, including the Cambridge Service Alliance and HCL’s digital transformation partnership with Manchester United. In 2019, Ashish was nominated to the board of TechUK and the World Economic Forum – Europe Regional Business Council, focused on collaboration between corporates and start-ups and boosting digital education and upskilling.

Stefan Schnorr
Stefan Schnorr

Director-General for Digital and Innovation Policy at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy

Show more information on Stefan Schnorr

A legal expert, Stefan Schnorr has a long history of government service, having held positions at both the national and regional levels in Germany. Today, he serves in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, which aims to foster Germany’s innovation capacity by creating an environment that is conducive to investment. Part of this effort includes helping small- and medium-sized enterprises to embrace new innovations and digitisation. Before joining the federal government, Schnorr served in Berlin as Deputy Director-General for Federal Affairs at the Representation of Rhineland-Palatinate to the Federal Government and the European Union and as Head of the Representation of Lower Saxony to the Federal Government.

Dharmendra Kanani
Dharmendra Kanani

Director, Asia, Peace, Security & Defense, Digital & Chief spokesperson

Show more information on Dharmendra Kanani

Prior to joining Friends of Europe, Dharmendra Kanani was director of policy at the European Foundation Centre (EFC). He was the England director at the Big Lottery Fund, the largest independent funder in the UK and fourth largest in the world. Dharmendra has held senior positions in the public and voluntary sector and advisor to numerous ministerial policy initiatives across the UK.

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