Vision for the EU Digital Single Market
The EU vision for the Digital Single Market (DSM) set out in the DSM Strategy announced in May 2015, is to ensure the free movement of persons, services and capital and that individuals and businesses can seamlessly access and exercise online activities under conditions of fair competition, and a high level of consumer and personal data protection, irrespective of their nationality or place of residence.
The goals of the European Commission’s DSM Strategy are to ensure that Europe maintains its position as a world leader in the digital economy and to help European companies to grow globally. The strategy encompasses 30 Digital Single Market initiatives under three pillars. These are:
- access to online products and services for consumers and businesses
- shaping the environment for digital networks and services to grow and thrive
- maximising the growth potential of the European digital economy
The European Commission considers that the DSM can create opportunities for new startups and existing companies in a market of over 500 million people, potentially contributing hundreds of billions per year to Europe's economy, creating jobs and transforming public services.
The Commission also believes that an inclusive DSM offers opportunities for citizens, provided they are equipped with the right digital skills. Enhanced use of digital technologies can improve citizens' access to information and culture, improve their job opportunities and promote modern open government. A Mid-Term Review of the DSM Strategy was published in May 2017 and outlined further areas where the EU needs to act further to ensure a fair, open and secure digital environment.
Digital Services Regulation – EU developments
Online intermediary services that connect consumers to goods, services or content have undergone rapid and widespread development and have been central to many of the digital changes that impact our lives.
For example, online platforms have facilitated cross-border trading within and outside the EU and this has opened new opportunities to a variety of European businesses and traders by aiding their expansion and access to new markets.
However, there are also challenges arising from the evolution of online intermediary services, such as the trade and exchange of illegal goods, services, and content online and the misuse of algorithms to amplify the dissemination of disinformation. These new challenges and the way online intermediary service providers address them have a significant impact on fundamental rights online.
It has been recognised that European legislation needs to be evolved to ensure that online intermediary services foster an environment where EU business can thrive and that users are treated fairly and can use online intermediary services without fear of manipulative algorithms or illegal goods and content.
The Digital Services Act package is the EU response for the need to regulate this digital space. It defines measures to protect users of online intermediary services while supporting innovation. The Digital Services Act package is composed of two new EU regulations:
- The Digital Services Act took effect in EU law on 16 November 2022
- The Digital Markets Act took effect in EU law on 1 November 2022
The Digital Economy Regulation Unit of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has responsibility for the implementation of the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act into Irish law.
Artificial Intelligence – EU developments
The Department’s Digital Economy and Policy Unit has responsibility for working with the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG Connect) on the development of EU policy on Artificial Intelligence (AI). The Commission have identified the cooperation of the Member States through a coordinated approach as the best way to achieve a significant position in the global AI market place.
The Commission issued a Communication entitled Artificial Intelligence for Europe (COM(2018) 237) on 25 April 2018 that set out a European initiative on AI, which aims to:
- boost the EU's technological and industrial capacity and AI uptake across the economy
- prepare for socio-economic changes by encouraging the modernisation of education and training systems, nurturing talent and supporting labour market transitions
- ensure an appropriate ethical and legal framework
Since then, the framework for the governance of EU AI policy was established and the Commission established a Member State Group to assist it in the development and agreement of an EU Coordinated Plan for Artificial Intelligence (COM(2018) 795 final). The Plan was published on 7 December 2018 along with an associated AI factsheet. The MS Group has responsibility for progressing, actioning and reviewing the Coordinated Plan and for the preparation of Member State Digitizing European Industry Country Reports.
The Commission also established a High-level Expert Group (HLEG) of 52 experts on AI from industry and academia, which published a set of draft AI Ethics Guidelines that were launched at Digital Day on 9 April 2019 and a policy recommendations report on AI in June 2019 which indicate areas of priorities to take into account in order to boost AI in Europe, for instance, in terms of AI uptake by industry and the public sector, and in terms of AI investments.