Speech by Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager on the Digital Package

©European Union, 2021, Source: EC - Audiovisual Service©European Union, 2021, Source: EC - Audiovisual Service

“Check against delivery”

Today, we present you two proposals to advance our digital agenda. The first proposal is a new regulation for the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking. The second proposal is a recommendation for Member States to boost investment in connectivity infrastructure.

High-performance or Supercomputers are important for our future. They support the health sector by creating a digital human twin. Like this, we can simulate the trillions of processes and molecules of the human body to advance treatments, tackle diseases or viruses and improve diagnostics. We can use supercomputers to investigate options and design an efficient Earth system modelling capacity – the so-called Planet Earth twin – to inform and advance policymaking and help us to find solutions to fight climate change. Supercomputers can support businesses to innovate, test and scale up much beyond what we have today.

In October 2018, we put together with Member States and private contributors 1.5 billion euros to the first Joint Undertaking on High Performance Computing We now want to scale up this ambition in the next Multiannual Financial Framework, with further 8 billion euros to be invested in this key digital capacity.

Connectivity is the backbone for digital solutions. We want to speed up investment in high-speed internet for businesses, public services and citizens. It is needed to accelerate our efforts when it comes to 5G development. With the pandemic many connectivity projects and 5G spectrum auctions were delayed. But we should not slow down investment in connectivity. So we call on Member States to develop a toolbox with best practices to invest in connectivity. These are just two tangible examples of how we can advance our digital agenda. Because if not, we remain in the situation we are here now, a lot of people and business realise we have to push further on. All changes need a driver, a purpose for them to happen. For the coming decade, we need to have these drivers clear in our mind.

Our main driver is to serve the people. A digital transformation that includes an accountable, democratic and fair economy will help us do this better. We all agree that digital transformation have brought many advantages to our society: access to innovative and convenient services for our citizens, and new ways for companies to reach their customers. But in that respect, in spite of all the progress made, it is important that we don’t let a handful of privately owned companies define the rules of the game for the market places that they have created if they do so in an unfair manner.

With size comes responsibility. With size also came the economic power for some companies to dominate markets in ways that threaten fair competition. So in December, we will table the Digital Services Act and propose a New Competition Tool. The aim of these proposals is to ensure a fully functioning and competitive single market for digital services based on European values.

For each and every one of us, the things that happen close to home are those who matter the most. Solutions that ease our lives will change our behaviour. For instance, digital tax declarations that are simpler and faster to do opposed to filling in on paper. Connected cashiers that directly transmit data to the tax authorities to prevent tax evasion and long processing of paper accountings at the end of the year. Electronic medical prescriptions that allow you to pick up necessary medicines at every pharmacy you pass by. This is useful in any Member State.

We want to enable access to public, private and cross-border services. To use these in a seamless manner it is important that we can identify ourselves. So we will soon propose a secure European E-identity. This will not only enable us to identify ourselves or make transactions online, it will also include getting control over our data, which we still struggle to get today.

During COVID-19, Greece set up within 24 hours a special number where request for permission for specific outings were sent by SMS and the authorisation was sent back on the mobile so that everyone know they had the permit on their phone when going out during lockdown. This simple idea empowered citizens and created much trust for other digital services that the government launched during past months. The public sector can be a strong enabler of change. Latvia has for example introduced a large-scale communication and training programme to improve peoples’ digital skills and to facilitate the use of digital services. These changes benefit all citizens and businesses.

In order to create this drive, we propose to invest 20% of the Recovery and Resilience Facility in digital transformation. This target will focus minds when discussing how to use the recovery funds in a way that enables and supports Europe’s future.

There is a lot of money to spend in the Recovery Fund. These target will help us spend it wisely. We need to make sure that the public spending will fosters additional private investments and stimulates innovation and competition in Europe. A combination of public and private investment is necessary to achieve the digital transition and the recovery we want

The target of 20% is ambitious as the challenges ahead of us are huge. We will work closely with Member States on how to integrate digital components in their recovery plans. Cross-border and multi-country projects are particularly important in that context and a well-functioning Single Market is necessary for Europe to be successful.

Finally, we hope that many member States will invest in digital skills. Over 40% of Europeans do not even have basic digital skills today. If we want everybody to benefits from the advantages of digital education, if we want to use digital applications in our daily lives, we need to create these skills. If we want to lead in digital technologies, we have to step up investments in advanced digital knowledge and well-trained digital innovators.

The recovery and resilience plans are a powerful tool to enhance Europe’s future. It may seem that this is long overdue, but if you look at Member States that have been pushing forward, you see the benefits that comes with a digital recovery.

Today we have taken two very tangible and concrete steps to enhance the best use of digital technologies.