THINKPolicy #5: Harmonizing Europe’s Digital Economy

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With massive data breaches galvanizing media and public attention, individuals and governments are scrambling to ensure the privacy and security of online information.

The European Commission, Council and Parliament are now in the final round of negotiations on a new regulation, which aims to harmonize and modernize Europe’s current data protection regime.

When Europe established its Single Market, citizens across all member countries were able to engage in a unified system of trade and commerce, which provided a real boost to economic prosperity and to the international competitiveness of European companies. Now, the time has come to scale up the continent’s digital economy.

The need is clear. Only 15 percent of European consumers say they have ever crossed a European Union (EU) border while shopping online. And, 56 percent of those who have tried to access a service meant for users in another EU country have encountered problems. In a market that is already physically unified, digital cross-border access must also become easier.

The European Commission has introduced a Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy that holds great promise, and for which IBM offers the following considerations:

  • dl-boxcloud-com1Recognize Data as an Opportunity, Not a Threat – IBM views the Commission’s DSM proposal as a step in the right direction. The digital space is evolving so rapidly – with new services, networks and platforms springing up on an almost daily basis – that overly cumbersome or alarmist regulation will quickly slow the pace of innovation. Consider for example, Europe’s industrial policy objectives. The Industry 4.0 push is essential to driving the transformation of Europe’s industrial and manufacturing base and to increase global competitiveness. Regulation should promote, not stifle, the creation of exciting new technologies that can benefit this sector and others.
  • Study, then Proceed – We applaud the Commission for undertaking further study of specific areas that need to be carefully considered before implementing the DSM. These include emerging digital platforms, cloud computing, copyright, ISP intermediary liability, technology standards and alignment with international digital market structures. A one-size fits all approach to digital platforms cannot work. Instead, it is important to recognize the different technological solutions that exist. IBM’s more detailed perspective on these considerations is available here.
  • Support the Free Flow of Data – a true digital single market requires the free flow of data, which is why we strongly welcome the European Commission’s proposed ‘free flow of data initiative’ to address unjustified data localization requirements.
  • Balance the Approach – IBM will work with EU policymakers and Member States to promote the DSM, but will oppose any efforts to use the framework as a way to impose onerous new regulatory frameworks or exclusionary digital policies.

Europe’s leaders are right to pursue a Digital Single Market, and IBM applauds their efforts. The DSM could drive an additional 450 billion euros into the union’s economy each year, the benefits of which will be realized by consumers and businesses across all 28 member states.


Media Contact:

Adam R. Pratt

(202) 551-9625

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