A new initiative from the European Commission is proposing a ‘Digital Single Market Strategy’ which aims to remove many of the digital and practical trade barriers between member states – including the elimination of geoblocking and the lowering of parcel delivery costs to facilitate interstate trade.
The initial proposal reads as fairly radical – particularly for the EU member states which do not fall into the ‘stagnating economies’ category which the DSM is arrayed against. In it Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, asserts “Let us do away with all those fences and walls that block us online. People must be able to freely go across borders online just as they do offline. Innovative businesses must be helped to grow across the EU, not remain locked into their home market. This will be an uphill struggle all the way, but we need an ambitious start. Europe should benefit fully from the digital age: better services, more participation and new jobs,”
The proposal breaks down into three main tiers – ‘Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services’, which seeks to modernise copyright law and ‘improve people’s access to culture’; to create improvements within existing ecommerce frameworks inside the European Union, with ‘affordable parcel delivery’ opening up interstate trade; to simplify VAT transaction overheads, which are currently estimated [PDF] to cost 80bn euros annually; and to tackle geoblocking, which limits online services to those using IP addresses that corresponds to the service’s country (such as BBC iPlayer, not ordinarily usable outside the United Kingdom).
The second raft of measures the proposal considers is ‘Shaping the environment for digital networks and services to flourish’, which involves a review of Europe’s current telecoms and media rules to make them ‘fit for new challenges’, including in regard to growing use of web-based calls, such as Skype and Viber services; giving 4G technology a boost of standardisation across the union; facilitating the removal of illegal content and strengthening trust in online services such as social media platforms, search engines and app stores; and a ‘swift adoption’ of data protection regulation to boost end-users’ trust in services which hold data on them.
Finally the post posits ‘Creating a European Digital Economy and Society with long-term growth potential’ as a key objective, focusing on ‘Industry 4.0’, which aims to speed up new interoperability standards in Europe; to leverage ‘the data economy’ and Big Data, whilst addressing privacy issues that emerge from this pursuit; to ensure that ‘the right framework’ is in place for the growing use of cloud computing within the EU; and to ensure that EU citizens develop ‘digital skills’ and benefit from interoperable government e-services.
According to the press release’s associated PDF, the use of Big Data by the top 100 EU manufacturers could lead to savings worth 425bn euros (£312bn), and Big Data analytics has the potential to boost EU economic growth by an additional 1.9%, equivalent to a GDP increase of 206bn euros (£151bn).
Opinion DSM is a bold initiative, and in seeking to create a more level playing field, has the potential to involve invested players far outside the EU, most particularly as regards to the changing of copyright laws and the dismissal of geoblocking as a valid tool to exploit the differential between the value of greatly disparate EU currencies. Essentially DSM is sandboxed globalisation, and its aims are likely to conflict with the interests of the stronger economies within the EU, as well as the non-EU parent interests so likely to be affected by almost any of the changes that it moots.