EU looks to develop digital market

The EU is to take on the dominance of the US giants in a bid to develop a single digital market for Europe.

The ambitious project should add €415bn to the union’s economy, thousands of jobs and create a new industry of EU-based web business.

Ireland is particularly well placed to take advantage of the new opportunities with the latest research showing that citizens and small businesses are eager and able to move into the internet age.

A quarter of Irish SMEs already sell online, one of the highest percentages in the EU, while Irish consumers are making good use of the internet with 71% downloading videos on demand while a third already shop online cross-border — double the EU average.

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Launching the strategy — one of the key jobs for his Commission’s five year term, president Jean-Claude Juncker said: “Today, we lay the groundwork for Europe’s digital future. I want to see pan-continental telecoms networks, digital services that cross borders and a wave of innovative European start-ups.

“I want to see every consumer getting the best deals and every business accessing the widest market — wherever they are in Europe”.

He has promised that by the end of next year the Commission will flesh out exactly what needs to be done building on the three pillars of better access to digital goods and services for consumers and businesses; clearing obstacles and creating a level- playing field for digital to flourish; and maximising its growth potential.

It will affect all aspects of using the internet — data protection, copyright and telecoms rules, and abolishing geo-blocking to allow people access online content irrespective of where they are in the EU.

However, there is a huge battle ahead on almost every aspect as governments fight to protect national champions and multinationals fight to ensure they are not disadvantaged.

IBEC, representing Irish business, warned new EU digital rules must support, not hamper growth.

“Europe needs to adopt a flexible approach that avoids imposing an excessive regulatory burden and unlocks the full potential of the digital economy”.

Ireland hosts the vast majority of US IT companies and the Government subscribes to many of US approaches to digital business.

Professor of information systems in Warwick Business School, Mark Skilton, said the EU hopes that by creating a single digital market European companies can take on companies like Facebook that holds 78% of the social media market.

“The EU is the biggest single trading zone in the world, worth $18tn. This announcement will affect US dominance of the EU digital market, particularly the review of online market platforms in search, social media and app stores, and the EU’s drive to maximise market growth in the European cloud and the free flow of data across Europe”, he said.

However, not everyone praised the strategy with the Green Party in the European Parliament calling it a damp squib and too little too late to meet digital era challenges.

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