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The European Digital Single Market: Facts and Measures

By Pier Luigi Parcu
Director Florence School of Regulation - Communications & Media Area and Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF)​

24 March 2015


There is clear consensus on the fact that the Internet economy represents a decisive element to boost economy as a whole.

When, in 2010, the EC launched the Europe 2020 strategy, one of its seven flagship initiatives was the Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE), which aims at better exploiting the potential of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in order to foster innovation, economic growth and social progress. The DAE is based on seven pillars, the first of which, maybe the most important, being the Digital Single Market (DSM). However, so far there are too many issues, such as spectrum management, divergence in ultra broadband diffusion, geo-blocking of content, national copyright and data protection regulations, just to quote some of the most relevant, that need to be tackled in order to advance the DSM objective.

The Junker Commission aims at unveiling its DSM strategy in May. In the meantime, it is looking both at where we stand now and at the instruments currently available to see if they fit with the purpose of achieving the DSM.

In this process, the recently released Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) aims at giving an overview on where digital Europe, and each MS, stands today.

The DESI examines Connectivity, Human Capital, Use of Internet, Integration of Digital Technology, Digital Public Services (each of these dimensions is further divided in a set of sub-dimensions, in turn composed by individual indicators)  to capture a high number of aspects and to take a detailed picture of the digitalisation process within Europe.

To have at disposal such a picture, and thus the availability, transparency and easy use of the relevant data, might be extremely useful for all stakeholders. Governments could be facilitated in assessing market failures and identifying areas where intervention is more urgent; private companies could better plan investments and business strategies; last but not least, increased awareness of citizens could stimulate debates and drive action to address the most pressing policy issues as revealed by the indicators.

The indicators pertain to different policy areas and could prove useful in ensuring better coordination and harmonisation of European and national policies that have an impact on the digitalisation process. Moreover, the possibility to compare and/or to match them in a variety of ways could become a great instrument to spot inconsistencies or various degrees deriving from a lack of coordination. It is clear, in fact, that major developments in the digital economy cannot be achieved through isolated improvements of one or another particular policy area, but rather through coordinated improvements in all major areas.

Finally, in order to identify the right indicators, the European Commission has followed a complex methodological procedure. Reflecting on the fact that the digital ecosystem such indicators are called to measure changes constantly and swiftly, it might be worth to consider the possibility of a comprehensive, timely and permanent process of review and fine-tuning of the indicators.

Only if all stakeholders, governments, business, citizens, will be truly involved in the process, the outcomes will better adhere to the evolving digital world they are supposed to measure. 


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