I have been drafting this blog about the Digital Single Market for the past couple of days. (The flagship digital policy that the European Commission announced today - here in case you missed it somehow.) There is so much to unpack on the specific proposals, the EU's history of 'internet regulation', data privacy and of course the huge opportunities a digital single market can provide to all of us. Rather than risk ranting on all these topics I thought I'd share some of the articles that most resonated with me over the last week or so:
- The detail in the WSJ: EU Announces Plans to Create Digital Single Market here
- The risk and opportunity in the FT: Europe's timid embrace of the digital economy here
- The need for openness and competition in the FT: EU should resist urge to rig the rules of cyber space here
- The context of data-protection in the FT: European disintegration threatens business on the internet here
- A proper rant from the Register: EU Digital Single Market plan: We will compromise fast, and compromise early here
- And because I'm struggling to find really positive piece of coverage here is the European Commission's press release.
Ok, I give in. Here are my two euro-cents: Even though their ambition is laudable - to embrace the digital revolution and open up digital opportunities for people and businesses - in reality, the Commission is going to have an uphill struggle to deliver a Digital Single Market when so many of the barriers are not 'digital'. 'Digital' as a distinct concept that can be put one bucket has always been anathema to me and I'm hardly a 'digital native'. Tech and digital services are interwoven with the way we conduct regular daily activities in the real world. Many of the benefits of new digital products and services: being more efficient (e.g. smart-meters), maximising our resources better (e.g. spare-room rentals), getting from A to B cheaper and faster (e.g. rideshare services), and communicating ideas more than ever before (e.g. any social network) - have taken off precisely because they complement and improve the way we do things in the physical.
The initial success of many of these new services is down to one thing: the first thing they think about is the best way to deliver an awesome service for a consumer. Making money comes second to product and user growth. The incumbent industries that fail to do this and concentrate on protecting their business model will fail first, but not before they spend a lot of money lobbying in the capitals, slowing down innovation under the guise of protecting jobs and consumers. Empires rise and fall, industries will be replaced.
The challenge for the new service providers who are flipping economic models on their heads is in communicating what they do, how they do it and the benefits they bring to consumers, and in turn the economy. Convincing someone to do things differently, when they have been programmed to do things in an established way can be hard. Convincing an entire sector that the way they have been doing something for the last year, decade or century is no longer the best way to do it is extremely hard. Now we just have to convince a few national and multinational institutions...