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.

What did CoFoE say about digitisation?
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