Podcast 🎧 & blog: Europe in 2030 – a digital powerhouse?

10.01.2024 | Federico Plantera

Digital skills, collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors and governments are important in leading businesses into the digital era. We start the year with a strong vision and a focus on Europe, in light of the recently published DigitalEurope 2030 report. And we do so with Raido Lember, former CEO of the National Investment Promotion Agency of Estonia, right now consulting businesses independently and as eGA expert.

It is a strategy that goes beyond wishful thinking, or at least aims to do so. Of the many pillars to unpack, the government’s role as facilitator stands out. Of a more international reach for small and medium enterprises, of citizens empowered by savvy use of digital tools, of an increasing interconnection between national information systems.

In this podcast episode, Lember takes us on an insightful journey into future Europe – from where we stand today, towards an EU conscious of its digital potential, and what it takes to get there.

Pillars of a digital Europe for the years to come

Lember delves deep into the European Union’s strategy for establishing a cohesive digital single market by 2030. This ambitious plan, detailed in a comprehensive document released in November 2023, aims to uplift the EU’s competitiveness and set higher standards for digital society and business environments. The strategy is built around five fundamental pillars, aimed at developing:

  • the digital society;
  • competitiveness;
  • sustainability;
  • resilience and innovation in a digital environment;
  • a global Europe.

Each pillar is designed to foster freedom, standardisation, progressiveness, diversity, and competitiveness. On this last point, “we must keep in mind that this initiative is not just about enhancing the European market, but also about extending the EU’s digital influence globally,” Lember says. The plan envisages breaking down barriers, not only within the EU but also in its external relations, thereby facilitating the flow of ideas and businesses beyond European borders. “It aims to create a platform where European citizens and businesses can thrive and bring their ideas to a global audience.”

Moreover, the strategy emphasises the importance of digital freedom and standardisation, crucial for nurturing a progressive and diverse digital environment. It addresses the need for more efficient and interoperable systems across various sectors, including healthcare, energy, and social services. Lember points out that such harmonisation is necessary for facilitating seamless cross-border services and interactions, ultimately contributing to a better quality of life for EU citizens.

This vision of a unified digital market also includes tackling existing regulatory and bureaucratic obstacles. The strategy aims to streamline processes and create a more conducive environment for businesses and consumers alike. It recognises the importance of digital transformation in boosting the EU’s economic growth and global competitiveness.

People and businesses shall not be left behind

Elaborating on the aspect of technological innovations and talent development, Lember points out the significance of fostering a tech-savvy population. He identifies education and skill development as foundational to realising the EU’s digital ambitions. This involves not only introducing technology-focused subjects in early education, but also ensuring that these opportunities are accessible and appealing to all, irrespective of gender and other baseline demographic variables.

Estonia, for its part, has successfully integrated technology education into early learning stages. This approach has cultivated a generation enthusiastic about technology and its possibilities. However, he notes, efforts are still needed to encourage more women to pursue technology careers.

In terms of supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and their role in the digital economy, Lember suggests that government support in the form of grants could help traditional businesses transition into the digital era. Such support would involve assessing current business practices and identifying areas where digital tools could enhance efficiency and output.

To this end, fostering a culture of innovation within the EU is essential, according to Lember. “This includes supporting new digital business models and encouraging the digitisation of existing products and services. A scenario where European businesses, regardless of size, can easily scale up and reach global markets. But it’s a vision that requires a collaborative effort between academia, industry, and government to develop and implement innovative digital solutions.”

Data policy and information exchange, within and beyond borders

In discussing data policy, Lember emphasises the need for streamlined data rules across the European Union. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is one example of that, seen as a landmark initiative in standardising data handling and privacy. However, he notes, that there are still numerous sectors where data exchange and standardisation lag behind – such as healthcare and energy.

The vision for 2030 includes tackling these challenges by establishing unified standards for data exchange across various industries. This effort aims to facilitate the seamless transfer of information, enhancing efficiency and service quality in sectors critical to daily life. Looking forward, Lember envisions a Europe where, for instance, a traveler can easily access their healthcare records across borders, making travel safer and healthcare responses more effective.

These initiatives are not meant to have effect only within the borders of the Union, but rather on a global scale. The EU’s strategy isn’t just about internal development; it’s about setting a global standard and enhancing worldwide collaborations. And fostering deeper connections with countries in other continents, such as Africa. These efforts go beyond the simple trade of goods: exchanging ideas and knowledge, and contributing to global progress – it all can make for a stronger Europe, and its partners, on the global stage.

A personal take on Europe in 2030

“A digitally empowered Europe,” that’s what Lember wishes to see in 2030. A continent where digital barriers are minimised, and interactions and collaborations are not hindered by bureaucratic complexities. In this vision, technology is not just a tool, but a facilitator of global connection and innovation.

After all, the information age is one where barriers break down – creating a more inclusive and interconnected world remains the overarching goal. And a solid European vision and policy can strengthen its standing in an evolving digital landscape.

Listen to all episodes of the Digital Government Podcast here!

New episodes will be launched on Wednesdays.