What did CoFoE say about digitisation?

What did CoFoE say about digitisation?

When socialising the CoFoE final outcome last summer, I didn’t look at the Digitisation chapter. I have decided to plug that gap. This is a personal summary of the Digitisation chapter of the Proposals/Outcomes of the CoFoE. The CoFoE was organised into streams and within those streams there were usually four citizen’s panels. This led to on occasion multiple proposals on the same topic, which have been collected together. In some cases, a topic is dealt with in multiple proposals and even multiple chapters.

There are four proposals in the Digitisation Chapter, they cover a right of access and use, the accrual of benefits to be shared by all, a safe, resilient, and trustworthy digital society covering cyber security, fake news, and data protection & privacy.  The issues of investment and citizen rights are covered in all four proposals.

Objective: Equal access to the internet is a fundamental right of every European citizen. We propose that everyone in Europe should in practice have access to the internet and to digital services, and that the sovereignty of the EU’s digital infrastructure is enhanced through:

They propose to invest for innovation led growth, using examples of 5/6G and that any investments and investment targets should be geographically and socially comprehensive, including children, families, the elderly and the vulnerable. It is further proposed that public services are a priority for this investment programme. The proposal also makes a goal of geographical and social inclusion.

The proposal also addresses the regulation of the private sector internet service providers, to ensure there is fair and open competition and prevent monopolies, vendor lock-in, data concentration and dependence on third countries in relation to infrastructure and services, improving markets from the perspective of consumers

The also propose that the environmental impacts of digital infrastructure and digitalisation are considered in order to make digital transformation sustainable and strive for a green digital society.

It also proposes as a measure in investment, the harmonising of high quality digital standards and improving secure mobility of data to facilitate cross-border interoperability; to me this is mainly words unless this is a re-opening of the who owns the standards, because if this is to considered, the issues of code copyright and restrictive patents needs to be considered.

The creation of an equal access to the internet as a fundamental right of every European citizen is less explicit although the current state of law is that people may not be sanctioned by courts by removing their access to the internet and the Charter of Fundamental Rights’ free speech article guarantees a right to be informed.

Objective: We propose that the EU ensures that all European citizens can benefit from digitalisation, by empowering them with the necessary digital skills and opportunities

They propose the development of formal and non-formal digital literacy and skills training and education, for those in work, or seeking to re-enter work, ensuring that Higher Education remains relevant and available and that measure are taken to include vulnerable groups and elderly, enhancing digital skills of children in a manner that is compatible with their healthy development and tackling digital inequalities, including the digital gender gap. The thrust of these measures is education and inclusion.

Objective: We propose that in order to have a safe, resilient and trustworthy digital society the EU should ensure effective and swift implementation of existing legislation and have more powers to enhance cyber security, deal with illegal content and cyber criminality, counter and recover from cyber threats from non-state actors and authoritarian states, and address disinformation through:

These proposals address cyber crime and disaster recovery. It proposed more investment in Europol and The European Cybersecurity Competence Centre, now headquartered in Bucharest. The note the need for co-ordinated Disaster Recovery plans. The internet is itself a highly resilient technology and several regulatory agencies within the member states have resilience standard which they inspect and certify.

Under this proposal they ask for measures that enhance digital literacy and critical thinking to counter disinformation, online threats,  hate speech, dark patterns and preferential pricing. They also ask for legislation and guidelines to counter disinformation  for online platforms and social media companies among other things requiring the to address disinformation vulnerabilities and implement transparency measures. They also ask that such measures are applied to traditional media outlets also. However, they don’t ask for secure communications as a right.

Objective: We promote data sovereignty of individuals, better awareness and more efficient implementation and enforcement of existing data protection rules (GDPR) to enhance personal control of own data and limit misuse of data through:

The GDPR is and has been quite controversial. The bulk of these recommendations identify weaknesses in its implementation, or at least weaknesses identified by CoFoE, either citizens or politicians.  The Conference called for an effective enforcement of the law on consent, which must be informed, affirmative and freely given. It called for the same on an effective enforcement on the rights of deletion and on the duty of a data controller to inform data subjects of the proposed usage of the data, particularly if transferred  to 3rd parties. It also asked for the  compliance of non-European companies to European data protection rules. They also talk about ensuring that any sanctions are proportionate to the data controllers’ ability to pay; while enormous they are not as onerous as the US’ Sarbanes Oxley Law fines. They also propose that the EU acquire the right to close down companies in serious breach. This would be a significant extension of competency. These measures show a deep dissatisfaction with effective regulation of personal data handling within the EU.

Objective: We propose that the EU promotes digitalisation measures which strengthen the economy and the single market in a fair and sustainable way, increase European competitiveness in technology and innovation, enhance the digital single market for companies of all sizes and make Europe a world leader in digital transformation and in human centric digitalisation, through:

While being numbered measure six, they say measures are required to, “Achieving a strong and competitive digital economy and spread the benefits of digital transformation equitably across Europe by focusing on technology and innovation as drivers of growth, by driving world class transformative research and making room for innovation ecosystems throughout all regions by improving the operating environment of SMEs and start-ups and fair access to funding and by doing away with legal or other burdens hindering cross boarder activities”.  I am unclear what this about, it’s clearly not SMART, and is to my reading unclear if this is about growth, research, or single market barriers. Or whether it’s about Europe’s alleged problem that it can turn money into ideas but not turn ideas into money. There is also the problem of economies of scale, the English language market (& the Chinese) is bigger than the atomised European one. It would seem the Conference and the institutions feel that the innovation in the multi-lingual power if its ‘digital platform’ is a start point for using technology to overcome this market weakness but continental Europe may have some way to go; the story of the Dutch startpage vs duck-duck-go is informative, and we’ll see whether the German incorporated deepl can establish itself as the automated translator of choice. I note that the Commission are planning to reuse parts of the digital platform in a new Commission owned and supervised consultation wiki.

The Conference also says, “The introduction or reinforcement of legislation that regulates (human-centric) ‘smart working’, taking into account the impact on workers’ physical and mental health for example by ensuring a right to disconnect. A ‘human centric’ approach should incorporate the ‘human in control’ principle;”. They add that legislation should ensure that companies be socially responsible and are incentivised to keep high quality ‘smart working’ jobs within Europe. They repeat the need to ensure human oversight of decision-making processes involving artificial intelligence and the right to understand any algorithms used. They also note the negative impacts of digital surveillance and propose a right to be informed about workplace surveillance and to be consulted prior to the introduction of digital technologies that impact working conditions. This legislation would need to ensure that new forms of work, such as platform work, respect worker rights and provide appropriate working conditions and while they don’t mention it, pay an appropriate social wage. It’s good that they recognise this problem and pose these demands.


The Values and rights, rule of law, security chapter has a data protection proposal and two proposals on “Media, Fake news, Disinformation, Fact-checking, Cybersecurity”. On data protection the language is more critical of the current legal regime, criticising the effectiveness of enforcement and the weakness of available sanctions. I am reminded again that for much of Europe, a malevolent and in some cases lethal surveillance state is in living memory. On fake news, it proposes, regulation of the media on with respect to ownership and monopoly and on quality and truthfulness, an active rebuttal strategy including building on existing initiatives, such as the Code of Practice on Disinformation and the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO). It places this regulation within the need to protect the right to freedom of information and the duty to supress hate speech. The second proposal previews what the digitisation chapter says on the EU’s institutional capability and proposes a stronger role for the EU and its agencies in countering cybersecurity threats. I am sorry that they did not take a stronger line against defence against hostile state actors, it is mentioned in one line in the EU in the world chapter.

The Democracy chapter talks about measures to enhance machine translation and combat fake news.

I wrote this in Jan ’23 and left it because I felt that I should really compare and contrast this with what the EU is doing in terms of regulating the digital economy. I have a research note on my wiki, which lists the recent and coming laws. I have not yet managed to address the current legislation which may well weaken the effective right to privacy, most obviously by weakening end-to-end encryption.

I wanted to write something on regional policy, research incubation and comparative advantage, looking at Nokia and Honeywell’s potential as commercial incubators, but my reading on this has been delayed. I was also concerned about, and reminded of my work with NESSI on security of supply for both Supercomputing and Chips. Europe’s top 15 tech companies include some very large and important players, albeit including one British Company (Vodafone) and Accenture, which claims to be US/Irish. This list includes both suppliers to chip manufacturers and chip designers as well as conglomerates such as Dassault. Although when one looks at the global supply of chips, neither Europe nor the UK scores that well. These issues speak to the influence that the EU and its economies and laws will have on the future of the internet.

These, on the whole, excellent and human centric goals need to be measured against the short term legislative agenda, the new principles for a digital society and the outcomes of the citizen’s assembly on virtual worlds. …

Scottish politics

Scottish politics

The New Statesman has a look at Scottish politics where most importantly to me Chris Deerin suggests that neither of the likely candidates to become leader of the SNP can unite the party and effectively lead Scotland and that the rapid collapse of the SNP vote is likely.

In my article, Labour & Devolution, I argued that in order to win seats in Scotland, Labour needs to address “the constitutional question” with sensitivity; it seems from this, that this may not be so. Although Andrew Marr, again in the Statesman, seems to agree with me.

It is a commonly held belief that oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them.

Starmer and Sarwar seem to be ready to give nothing other than Union to the Scottish people and they may get away with it. …

On proposals for a British digital currency

The UK Govt have issued a consultation on how or whether to implement a Central Bank Digital Currency. I have written up my thoughts on LinkedIn & Medium and have some further notes on my wiki. I look at the arguments in favour, cite some Swedish sources, who are four years ahead of the UK, and conclude, “This is ideologically dangerous, technically complex, and a solution in search of a problem.” …

A growing authoritarianism

A growing authoritarianism

Today, the Guardian reports that Civicus, a global campaigning NGO, in its recently published monitor has downgraded the UK’s acceptance and tolerance of protest, ‘it is now classified as “obstructed” – putting it alongside countries such as Poland, South Africa and Hungary.’ Civicus classify countries as: open; narrowed; obstructed; repressed; or closed. Civicus say,

A significant deterioration in civic freedoms in the UK, particularly the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, has led to the country being downgraded from narrowed to obstructed.

I recently analysed both the Economist’s democracy index and Transparency International’s annual reviews, the former of which had the UK on a stand still. The Economist’s marking on Civil Liberties remains unchanged since 2017 with a 91% positive marking. As my article makes clear, I find this hard to justify then, and even less today as the Tory Government turns the screws on protest, judicial review and free speech. …

Virtual Worlds, the EU citizen’s assembly, session two, day three.

Virtual Worlds, the EU citizen’s assembly, session two, day three.

Here is my write up on Day 3; the meeting kicked off in working groups and then returned to plenary. The plenary video is indexed on their web page. This article is made from mainly contemporaneous notes, but I had to revisit the video for the final two speakers. The plenary had guest speakers and allowed some of the working groups to present their ideas. My article here does my best to tell the story of what happened. Most groups seem to have some difficulty in imagining what will change, and there is much inertia and fear on what we'll lose and whether it'll get worse and crime will grow. I am disappointed at the failure to emphasis privacy except for Renate Nikolay, from the Commission and there were some belated calls for free speech, universal access and a need to regulate and suppress fake news. There is an interesting but inconclusive discussion on how to catch up with the USA and China, and a need for education and information. Possibly the most important contribution came from Rehana Schwinninger-Ladak, one of the knowledge committee, again from the Commission who classified the problems and solutions as about people, industry and infrastructure.

The full article is overleaf, please use the "Read More" button. ...

Virtual Worlds, the EU citizen’s assembly, session two, day two.

Virtual Worlds, the EU citizen’s assembly, session two, day two.

On the second day of the EU’s citizens assembly on Virtual Worlds, I observed Working Group 6 which reconvened to further develop proposals aimed at informing the regulation and development of a digital Europe. The working group was directed to focus on the Commission’s digital principles, numbers four and five, “Fostering participation in the digital public space” & “Increasing safety, security and empowerment of individuals”. I wonder if the Commission’s short list of broad principles, is a better way of getting something on the table, rather than the detailed multi-point manifestoes that I have tried to build with others.

While the moderator tried to give the meeting some structure much of the meeting was very disjointed with citizen panel members saying what they wanted, which is their role, but rarely adding to what others say by improving or disagreeing. I believe the moderating team have created a summary to forward to the final plenary, if so they have done a better job than me.

This blog article is based on notes taken at the time, and while I have polished them and turned them into sentences, they do not tell really tell a coherent story but I hope that the combination of the wisdom of crowds and my comments, insights and lessons will be interesting

My notes and comments are below/overleaf; use the Read More button to see the full article.

Virtual Worlds, the EU citizen’s assembly, session two, day one.

Virtual Worlds, the EU citizen’s assembly, session two, day one.

The plenary sessions were set in a virtual world, which looked from the demo, very like 2nd life. Observers could not see or participate in this. I have a note but the ice breaker did not really work,  it was about engaging with virtual worlds, and my notes suggest that the delegates don’t know how to answer the question asked.  There were several technical problems on the video conference.

The moderators suggested that they broke the 1st plenary into four parts, inviting experts to answer questions generated by the syndicate working groups at the previous meetings. The topics were the economy, jobs & business, safety & security, health & well-being/the environment, and Society: Inclusiveness, Accessibility and Democracy.

The first speaker, Harman van Sprang, referenced the sharing economy. I wonder if this is npw an out of date concept as industrial music, and the DatenKraken have enclosed or sought to criminalise what was often published as free content. He also spoke in reply to a question that cities are the centre of innovation. He was brought to this conclusion after being approached by the city of Seoul and came to VR as a means modelling the future. See also, https://www.sharingcitiesalliance.com/. It seems that urban planning is an attractive application for virtual worlds, as Euractiv reports a few days later on how the City of Berlin is using such technology to simulate, test and prove urban designs.

Van Sprang also referred to web 3, which both, he & I categorise as a drive to own one’s own content, the road to Web 3 can be seen as a journey from content to conversation to value. The original web for most people was an act of consumption, Web 2.0 enabled citizen content publication, and Web 3 is seeking to enable ownership, which may allow authors to establish value. For this to be useful and democratic, we need to extend the definition of authorship and copyright laws need to strike the balance between ownership and the right or collective benefit of building derived works.

Eric Marchiol of Renault, forecast that virtual reality was useful for planning , modelling and logistics. Renault have modelled their factory and he showed a video describing the solution and its benefits. From what he showed us, I think the benefits come from a common data schema including all relevant objects which includes people in the plant. He showed an example of certain objects, in this case a drill, which before the project had multiple data descriptions and existed in each of many applications. However, what shook me is that he described that Renault had a real time monitoring system implemented inside their virtual world. I wonder whether the three-dimensional representation is necessary for this functionality. He also described the virtual world as useful for simulation. This of course requires the implementation of science and physics rules within the software to be sufficiently accurate. Marchiol also spoke of health and safety as a dimension of the security problem, which I found refreshing, given the obsession over ‘safety’ often interpreted as censorship, within the Commission materials. From this presentation, I can see that some are using VR as an effective planning and simulation tool, and other training applications are obvious.

Dr Mariette van Huijstee came back to talk and sought to answer one of the questions on digital identity and privacy. She provoked me into asking myself that since an un-forgeable proof of a digital identity is based on encryption, is it possible to install surveillance back doors while promising people the ability to prove their identity.  I say no. I think that asking this in the context of proving one’s identity makes the contradiction more acute.

Elisa Lirone, in my opinion, misunderstands the history of virtual reality. Facebook may,  by having bought Occulus Rift VR, the VR headset vendor and have renamed themselves as Meta to ideologically colonise the solution space but this ignores the 30 years of games development, the establishment of MMOs and the work of organisations like second life, who not only developed a virtual world, but permitted the users to own their own code and the rendered objects and this created markets for digital objects, as did some of the games. (Somewhere in this blog is an article on how people in low wage economies would grand games for might game artefacts and then sell them for real money. It’s dated 2004! Doom was launched in 1993.)

It’s clear that I believe that 3D virtual worlds will have a limited application, but they were not invented or developed by the social media giants.

I again will need to review the stream, You will be able to find the links on this website after the session : Virtual worlds panel (europa.eu)

This was written from contemporaneous notes, but I have taken some time to polish them and have added the notes about the Euractiv article and Berlin’s planning applications; I have backdated this to the day of occurrence. …



On Tuesday, the Government presented a new bill called the Illegal Migration Bill. It’s centre piece is that any asylum seekers who enter the country illegally will have their claims denied and be ‘removed’ from the UK. Rishi Sunak proudly proclaimed the goals of the legislation in a tweet, with a big picture of the word denied.

The Bill, unusually, does not come with a certificate that the law complies with the European Convention on Human Rights. A number of organisations, including the United Nations have stated that they consider the Bill to be in breach of international law and the UK’s duties under these laws and treaties to treat asylum seekers fairly and with dignity. We must remember that these people are fleeing threats of death or war. Alasdair McKenzie writes a more detailed review of the Bill as it stands. He says, “It’s extraordinarily authoritarian.” Also, this article at Euractiv also describes the law’s effects including the argument that one had been brought to the UK as slaves.

The Bill has passed its first reading, on which it seems there is no vote [hansard | parliament live ], the BBC report it, saying ‘The United Nations refugee agency has described the moves as “very concerning” and would block even those people with a compelling claim to asylum.’ They also quote Sunak, Braverman and Cooper. This concern, of abrogating the UK’s legal commitments is echoed in the Guardian.

Zoe Gardner highlights the difficulties that such brutal and scofflaw behaviour will have on the EU and the French. Of course, the UK needs the latter’s help to genuinely close down the Calais camps, but leaving the ECHR is not the way to do it and of course the US will be watching closely as to how the UK Government treats the ECHR.

Not only is the law morally reprehensible, the language used to promote it is equally repugnant and has led commentators such as Gary Linekar and Tanya Bueletmann to compare it to the racism and tactics of the German Nazis which will only encourage the far right to continue their attacks on immigration camps and hotels. This, has also, allowed the Tories to change the topic from their nasty racism to the neutrality of the BBC. Care4Clais & the FBU have organised a statement of solidarity with refugees signed by many of the UK’s leading trade union officials.

On the issue of totalitarianism, there’s also this, an infographic comparing the Tories’ legislative programme with that of the Nazis, detailing their common approaches on protestors, the victimisation of gypsies and Roma, the dilution of fair elections, permitting the stripping of citizenship, the restriction of judicial review, the excising of human rights law from the UK, and the blaming of immigrants & minorities.

Some of Labour’s spokespersons, including their shadow home affairs spokesperson, Yvette Cooper,  are treading a fine line, criticising the government on competence rather than on values, a reminder that people that sit on fences get splinters up their arse.

Refugees have the right under international law to apply for asylum here. The Tories for performative reasons want to make it harder and to remove those who enter the country without permission which is pretty much impossible to get.  …

How democratic is the UK in 2022

How democratic is the UK in 2022

The 2022 version of the Economist’s Democracy Index is out, and I am surprised to find that the UK remains classed as a Democracy and maintains its position as 18th in the World. I last looked at this in 2018 and wrote quite a long article, being surprised at how few Democracies are defined as such by the Economist and how, if the US was classed as a flawed democracy, the UK was not. Democracy is,

Government by consent expressed through free and fair elections and under the rule of law without favour.

The Economist’s index measures over five classifications and sixty questions. The five classifications are Elections (with 12 questions), Government (14), Participation (9), Culture (8) and Human Rights (16). The article looks at theirs and my scoring in each category.

In summary, I believe that, on “Free, fair and meaningful elections”, the UK’s score is serious damaged by the existence of the House of Lords and FPTP votin. There is an inadequate regulation of election finance laws with recently weakened independence for the regulator and an inequality of access to the press and media.

On Functioning of government, I mark the UK down on a weak democratic control of the Government, and no basic human rights law. In the UK, the Government controls the legislature and not the other way around.

On Civil Liberties, I am concerned about the lack of social rights and the limited access to judicial review, there is a serious crisis of confidence in the police, racism is rife within the nation expressed both economically and in terms of relations between minority communities and the state and the government always over-reacts to public order outrages, and is inciting the political atmosphere to pass even more regressive laws.

I talk about the importance of the recommendations of Gordon Brown’s Commission on the constitution of the UK. I commented on the Commission's report in an article, called, New Britain, New Britcon [also on Medium]. The Commission ducked the issue of proportional representation which would be another means of ensuring that the legislature, i.e. Parliament held the government accountable and not the other way round.

Some of where we disagree is about methodology, some of it is values based, but there is a big difference in our scores and the issues I raise need to be addressed by the Economist in their methodology and by the rest of us in terms of building and/or defending a democratic state.

Even Norway’s democracy, the Economist’s No. 1, can be improved.

There is considerably more detailed critique overleaf, including three diagrams. Use the "Read More" button ...

Is Brexit worse than expected?

Is Brexit worse than expected?

I was talking to a friend, who asked if anyone had predicted the current chaos caused by Brexit, which led me to look for and find my personal manifesto for remain [ or on medium ], both published in May 2016

I got the economy, rights, and the loss of freedom of movement right. I was also right on sovereignty and remain so on peace and hope!

I didn’t predict the collapse of offshore fishing industry, food rationing, or an energy cost crisis or that we would have a trade agreement that didn’t allow people to come here to work, although on fish & food, others did. I, and I think most people, have a better understanding of what we’ve lost. I think we’ll be back. …