EU Recovery funds: 150 billion for the digital transition

Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for Domestic Markets, explains in an interview with Le Figaro that the digital transition has been attributed a massive 20% of the 750 billion euro recovery funds.

To understand the European Union recovery plan, it is essential to take into account that Europe is not only "recovering" from the fallout of the covid-19 crisis, but anticipating the world of tomorrow and the inevitable rivalries with mega-powers such as the USA and China.

In an interview given the Le Figaro, Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for Domestic Markets, explains the central role of digital in European strategy, evoking three main pillars to the digital transition:

First pillar: an industrial cloud with the capacity to meet specific criteria in offering new services in the fields of health, urban mobility and industry. These criteria include a short latency time in data processing and a high level of cyber-security. Industrial data is a vastly larger area than that of personal data, and Europe is ahead of the game in this area, so Europe aims to keep this lead.

Second pillar: obtain the tools to process this data according to European regulations. This requires an autonomous computing system. Europe will invest 8 billion in supercomputers. We will also need to invest in microprocessors, in order to produce in Europe the most powerful processors in the world.

Third pillar: in a word, connectivity. Europe must be able to offer access to super high speed internet to all its citizens. The lockdown has demonstrated the importance of this type of connection for work, education and entertainment. Today, one quarter of the European population does not have this access; we need to eradicate these gaps by 2030. The best way to achieve this is to acquire a constellation of low orbit satellites, in addition to broadband and 5G networks.

Europe needs to regulate the space that is “online” for the coming decades. We already established norms for e-commerce, which dates back twenty years. It must be adapted to the current context: this is the objective of the Digital Services Act presented at the end of 2020. The time for naivety is over. It is no longer a question of targeting specific companies, such as the GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft), but of attacking the very issue of the systemic role of platforms, wherever they come from, which exist and will continue to emerge.

"These actors are sometimes cited as "too big to care", too big to care about their impact on society, for example concerning the dissemination of "fake news". "

Big actors have also become “gate keepers”, necessary passages to access certain digital services. They must therefore be subject to obligations, audits and supervision, just as the European Union did with the big banks in 2008-2009. This regulation is not directed "against" anyone; it is there to protect European citizens. There will be proportionate penalties for those who fail to comply with the rules, with their dismantlement even being a possibility.

Concerning data protection, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was the first step. It is essential for this principle to be extended to industrial data. This is the purpose of the Data Act, scheduled for the first half of 2021, and which aims to organize the management and sharing - once anonymized - of data from figures within each ecosystem. For example, the various players within the connected car industry will be able to share data with each other. Ditto for the future urban management, or management of energy infrastructures ... this is the modern-day equivalent of cadastral maps.

"In terms of the timeframe, we need to move fast. Recovery plans of European member states will be put in place over the next two years."

The Commission will be able to accompany them in the form of payments and public investments from the first half of 2021. The European Cloud Alliance will be launched at the end of 2021, building on the work of Gaia-X. The structuring of industrial data and the alliance on microprocessors will be launched at the beginning of 2022.

"The aim is to make Europe the most connected continent in the world by 2030."

Source: Le Figaro