Growing digitalisation, underpinned by very high capacity networks, 5G and emerging data-driven technologies like AI and IoT, creates opportunities for all European citizens and companies alike.
However, as the world gets more closely connected and digitalised, a new sense of vulnerability has arisen. A recent global trust survey suggests that trust in the technology sector has reached an all-time low. The same survey shows significant decreases in trust for AI, IoT and 5G in Europe.
The European Commission must therefore make trust in technology and digital skills a key priority in its Digital Strategy. Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President of the European Commission and keynote speaker at the EURACTIV-GIGAEurope event, said: “One of the conditions to create trust in digital technology is the availability of solid and reliable digital infrastructure. We mostly feel confident that connectivity will not let us down. That we will have access to high speed internet no matter where we are in the European Union. The pandemic made us all see that this is not just a technical matter, it is a matter of social inclusion. This is why the implementation of the 5G security toolbox is essential and urgent. Together with knowledge and skills, infrastructure creates a strong foundation of trust.”
In addition to the European Commission’s Digital Strategy, GIGAEurope is calling for governments, industry and civil society to intensify their partnership to ensure that the next phase of technology-driven transformation is human-centred, inclusive and sustainable, and that secure, reliable connectivity is available to all Europeans by the end of the decade.
The connectivity sector plays a vital role
During the event, keynote speaker EVP Margrethe Vestager discussed the topic of trust in tech with GIGAEurope Co-Chairmen Joakim Reiter and Manuel Kohnstamm.
Joakim Reiter, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer and Executive Committee Member, Vodafone Group and GIGAEurope Co-Chairman, said: “There is a foundational, brick and mortar element to trust in digital technologies that is less prominent within tech and policy circles, but crucial to achieving the EU’s digital decade ambitions. Trust in connectivity. If we can deliver fast, secure and reliable internet access to citizens across the continent and help develop digital skills, we can ultimately reduce the rural digital divide, demonstrate the benefits of connectivity, and earn trust from citizens. The ball is now firmly in the court of policymakers, Member States and business to deliver on the Digital Decade promise.”
Manuel Kohnstamm, Senior Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Liberty Global and GIGAEurope Co-Chairman, said: “Growing trust in connectivity will be critical to the success of the EU’s digital decade. As an industry we have a collective responsibility to ensure that high-quality and reliable gigabit networks, with full transparency around the use of data, provide the platform on which digital innovation can flourish, improving the lives of millions of EU citizens.”
The Q&A was followed by a panel discussion with Lorena Boix Alonso (European Commission), Brando Benifei (European Parliament) and David Stevens (Belgian Data Protection Authority).
Lorena Boix Alonso, Director, Digital Society, Trust & Cybersecurity, DG CONNECT, European Commission said: “We should prepare for cybersecurity like we should prepare for a pandemic. We need to be ready for large-scale cyberattacks. We need to build resilience by investments, by having a regulatory environment and by information sharing. Trust is of the essence if we want to cooperate and share information. To build this trust, we need to raise our level of preparedness. This is what we are trying to build.”
Brando Benifei, MEP, lead negotiator on the Artificial Intelligence Act in IMCO said: “We cannot achieve the Digital Compass goals without the trust of our citizens. A successful digital transition cannot happen if citizens are not behind it. To ensure AI is safe, robust and trustworthy, we will work with the Commission to find the right balance between self-assessment by the developers of AI applications and ex-ante control by the institutions.”
David Stevens, President, Belgian Data Protection Authority said: “Simplicity is key in realising citizen empowerment the digital world and needed to increase citizens’ trust in digital. All stakeholders must work together to make rules and risks simple and easy to understand.” EURACTIV