miércoles, 12 de julio de 2017

EU Gigabit Society: Upgrading policy tools

Last september, the European Commission proposed a full renewal of the Union connectivity goals. Under the umbrella of the Gigabit Society the new targets included that all European households, rural or urban, should have access to connectivity offering a download speed of at least 100 Mbps by 2025. This means a significant upgrade regarding the target set in the Digital Agenda for Europe, which established that by 2020 internet speeds of 30 Mbps or above should be availaible for all European citizens.

For the purpose of achieving the connectivity goals of the Gigabit Society, the European Commission started the review of the European telecommunications legal framework. The proposed European Electronic Communications Code is supposed to include the adequate legal measures to boost the investments needed for this objective. But beyond the legal framework, other policy instrument should be deployed.

To begin with, the European Commission estimates  that €500 billion investment over the coming decade is needed in order to achieve ultra high speed broadband connectivity. This means that some kind of public intervention will be needed. Using again the European Commission figures, the needed public investment is likely to be a €155 billion.However, the EU Guidelines for the application of state aid rules in relation to the rapid deployment of broadband networks are still waiting a renewal. 30 Mbs is still the speed reference for the definition of which areas state could intervene without distorting compentence.

But there are other policy instruments where the connectivity speed goal taken as a reference should be renewed. It is also obvious that we need to renew the indicators used to follow the European progress on digitalisation. Nenvertheless, the connectivity dimension of the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) still does not include the measurement of the availaibility and usage of 100 mbs connection.

So for achieving the Gigabit Society not only setting targets and creating a new legal is needed. Other policy instruments should be in place, and right now it looks that the European Union are still not thinking on it.

miércoles, 5 de julio de 2017

Bundling measures to fight digital poverty

As the digitalisation advances it is more difficult to find any activity which is not linked with ICTs in some manner. Both our leisure and job, our personal and professional life are invaded with technology, sometime in subtle ways other in obvious ones. Probably, if you are living this invasion with few disphoria is because you are digitally literate and not in risk of beign trapped by digital poverty.

Digital poverty is the inability to use IT, either due to the lack of access or due to the lack of skills. There are countries that are colectivelly sunk in digital poverty, but the concious of suffering it is bigger in advanced countries. Furthermore, the increase of your digital poverty degree increase your exclusion as digitalisation is progressing around you. For instance, moving public services online may have as a consequence that you will receve less public services you badly need, and therefore you will be more excluded.

Obviously, the first step of policy makers to fight digital poverty is creating the conditions for the development of an affordable internet access and providing with digital skills to the whole population. But taking advantage of digital opportunities sometimes required an extra investment, and this is happening more and more frecquently. This is the reason to promote by public authorities programs like the Amazon Prime discounts for people on government asistance. What is the value of an internet connection if you are not able to pay the services on top of it?

So bundling maybe also has a place in public policies. Perhaps in the fight against digital exclusion we should start to think in bundling different kind of services depending on the degree of digital exclusion of the target. And for this purpose we will also need some new kind of public-private partnerships, but that is another story.

miércoles, 28 de junio de 2017

Digital transformation of sectors (III): Energy

The transformation of the production of energy in the late 19th century was the base of what Robert J. Gordon identified as the century of US growth (1870-1970). Without it, we would have not had what we call modern life conforts, such as electric power at home or cheap transport. Therefore, the application of digital technology to the energy sector create great expectactions as it is foreseen to fuel a complete revolution y the production, distribution and consumption of energy

Digitalisation will impact the supply and demand side of the energy sector. Regarding the demand, on one hand, consumption will be affected by the general trend towards the abandonment of ownership in cars, applianaces and other greater consumers of energy. This will certainly mean the need for different manner to sell energy packaged with the use of these goods. On the other hand, the deployment of smart meters will bring more personalised models of comsumption at home

On the supply side, digitalisation brings new opportunities across all the value chain. To begin with, the creation of new partnerships for production and distribution, for example, between legacy energy companies and telcos, that will create new platforms and marketplaces for energy distribution. But also, it will implies a more decentralised model for energy production, bringing us closer to the Rifkin´s zero-marginal cost society. A change in the production model that  can boost profitability by 20 to 30 percent.

In a higher degree than other sectors, cybersecurity is the great challenge to face in order to reap the benefits of digitalisation of energy. Only in the oil and gas sector, 68% of the companies have suffered some kind of cyberattacks. The short of digital skills in the sector, jointly with the combination of legacy and new technologies and the great disruption that could cause any failure of energy networks, makes the energy sector a natural targets for cyberattacks.  

The digitalisation of energy was one of the focus of the EU Digital Day in Rome. The great benefits and risks that technology could introduce in the sector are beginning to draw the right attention.

miércoles, 21 de junio de 2017

The end of romance

There was a era when everybody loves the GAFA (Google. Amazon, Facebook, Apple) and their descendants (as Uber, AirBnB, ...). Citizens appreciated then the services provided by the so-called digital platforms, it convenience, innovation and price. Governments didn´t paid them too much attention from the regulatory perspective as they were minor players in the economy, and also they liked to establish alliances and joint initiatives with them to obtain a seal of modernity.

But suddenly, it looks that the global romance between human beings and digital platforms has ended. To begin with, think-tanks that previously worked as the resounding camera of GAFAs speech about low-prices and high-quality services, are begining to write about their danger for competitive markets. Nobody would have imagined someone making such a bold proposal as the creation of global competition authority "to enforce competition law against companies engaging in cross-border business practices that restrict competition"  in the digital economy.

On the legislative activity, new rules are closer to be approved in Europe forcing social networks to curb the publication of inappropriate content on social networks. Even the past allies within the European Union are calling for these stronger rules in this area. Furthermore, it looks that the review of net neutrality in the US will  produce a new legal framework harming for its business models

Things are not better on competition regulatory field. Past investigations are being reviewed with a new perspective and fines are imposed for abusing its overwhelming position and knowledge of market. Furthermore, the interpretation of internet laws are begining to break the tabu of "platforms=mere conduit" and they are beging to be seen as sectorial companies instead of internet companies.

We are entering a new era. The GAFAs have disrupted markets and sectors and now a disruption wave of norms and regulations are beginning to menace with the disruption of the framework conditions that have served for their growth. But the real danger is perhaps on the making: the technology that will disrupt a world based on digital intermediaries, blockchain. There´s not loved that last forever.

miércoles, 14 de junio de 2017

"Contra el #running " - Luis de la Cruz

Contra el running. Corriendo hasta morir en la ciudad postindustrialContra el running. Corriendo hasta morir en la ciudad postindustrial by luis de la cruz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Empecemos con el yo confienso. A diferencia del autor, soy runner entre lesión y lesión. Adicto irredento, que cura la abstinencia forzosa con otras actividades con la natación o el ejercicio en bicicleta estática, ese soy yo. Si tambien lo eres, no descartes leer este libro. La provocación del título esconde una colección de artículos que realizan una radiografia sociopolítica completa de tu deporte favorito.

En el libro, habrá páginas que te refrescarán otras ya leidas. Las cifras económicas en que se materializa la creciente obsesión por el running ocupan páginas de periódico con frecuencia. De modo similar, habrás podido leer sobre los orígenes de la práctica deportiva dentro del tiempo libre resultante del establecimiento de límites a la jornada laboral. Sin embargo, existen menos análisis del impacto de la evolución urbanística de las ciudades sobre nuestras costumbres del ejercicio como pasatiempo.

Adicionalmente a los análisis históricos que han configurado la práctica urbana del running, el autor realiza la exploración del running desde distintos ángulos de las ciencias sociales. La perspectiva de género del running nos presenta la visión de la mujer deportista en la sociedad patriarcal y heteronormativa. La vida sana se descubre en otro de los ensayos como instrumento de configuración de una clase trabajadora productiva. No falta tampoco la inevitable visión próxima al ludismo de las interelaciones entre running y sociedad digital.

No nos retirará del running la reflexión política sino la decadencia física. Sin embargo, una óptica crítica nos ayuda a realizar la construcción personal del significado y razones nuestras costumbres.

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miércoles, 7 de junio de 2017

Collaborative Economy in EU: New steps but ... are they big enough?

Just in a week, the European Parliament will approve its report on a "European Agenda on the Collaborative Economy" (draft available here). The report is the reply to the European Commission communication with the same title published last year. The worries and concerns of both institutions have as a background the potential contribution of the collaborative economy to EU growth, between 160 and 572 € billion.

The Commision and the Parliament shared their opinion in many areas. Both institutions recommend taken a cautious approach to regulate  this new kind of business model. At the same time, they highlight the key issues to be watched in order to detect the need for regulation: Market access, liability, consumer protection, workers rights and taxation. The cornerstone on the decission to regulate is the distinction between professionals and non-professional service providers.

However, the Parliament introduces some critical remarks about the European Commission attitude to the issue. On one hand, it calls for a bigger clarification about the applicability of existing EU legislation to different collaborative economy models. On the othe hand, calls the Commission to be more active in the provision on guidelines, establishing principles and creating the right environment that allow the collaborative economy to flourish.

An interesting remark of the Parliament not including in the European Commission communication is the demand to develop the social face of the collaborative economy. Or what is the same, a return to the basics of collaborative economy encouraging non-profit and user-governed model that fosters the scalability of the social economy.

The report of the European Parliament brings Europe closer to enable the right environment for the collaborative economy. Nevertheless, we should reflect if it is needed so much time betwen steps. More than a year have passed since the European Commission published its communication. And while this debate goes, fragmentation is on the rise with different approaches to different sectors in different Member States. The uneven legal situation of Uber accross Europe is the most visible sign. The question is how much time do we have to solve the debate on collaborative economy in an efficient manner.

miércoles, 31 de mayo de 2017

Europe and the battle for digital standards

In our globalised world, the ability to communicate with each other underpin every process. The value of devices and applications depends it is capacity to conect with other devices and applications, creating complex global value chains. Standards are the critical element for enabling these communications, which are defined in the EU Regulation 1025/2012 as "a technical   specification,   adopted   by   a   recognised standardisation body, for repeated or continuous   application,   with which compliance is not compulsory".

It is easy to recognise the value of ICT standards in our interconnected world. The exponential growth on Internet adoption is based on the existence of a group of communication protocols, visualisation tools and personal computer platforms that have been adopted by a vibrant industry and allow consumers and companies to seamlessly enjoy a growing rank of digital services.

The value of ICT standards for policy making of any sector has been long recognised by the European Union. In 2011, the ICT Multi Stakeholder Platform (ICT MSP) was established. The central mission of the ICT MSP is the yearly development of "The Rolling Plan for ICT Standardsation", which provides an overview of the needs for preliminary or complementary ICT standardisation activities to be undertaken in support of EU policy activities. For each policy area, the rolling plan takes stock of the legislation and policy framework, the ongoing standarisation activities in standarisation activities and proposed new actions to be developed. 

The attention pays to ICT standards in the European Union has been strengthened since the launch of the strategy for a Digital Single Market in Europe. On one hand, we need standards to support the exchange of digital services and products within the internal market. On the other hand, there is a need to have a common European voice in the global ICT standarisation arena in order to reinforce the EU position in the digital sector.

On April 2016, the European Commission presented the communication "ICT standardisation priorities for the Digital Single Market". The document identifies five priority areas where improved ICT standardisation is most urgent to create a Digital Single Market: 5G, the internet of things, cloud computing, cybersecurity and data technologies. Besides the identification of these areas, the European Commision commits to monitor the works in the standarisation bodies and ensure that their roadmap and activities takes into account the growing need of ICT standards in the economy and society.

The importance of  ICT standards far from diminish will increased in the next years. Many more devices will be connected in the medium term with the rise of the Internet of the Things. It is expected that the IoT market will grow from an installed base of 15.4 billion devices in 2015 to 30.7 billion devices in 2020 and 75.4 billion in 2025. And these devices will be in use in almost every economic sector and social scenario: Manufacturing, health, cities, energy, ... Standards are needed to avoid vendor lock-in and guarantee consumer choice. Without ICT open standards there will not be open markets and trade barriers will flourish.  OMC agreements looks to avoid this situation.

The growing importance of ICT standards for keeping open the digital world has been recognised in recent international summits. For instance, on April 6 the digital ministers G20 countries highlights the importance of the creation of similar international norms and standards worldwide as far as possible, to enable the different systems to interact with each other and new value-generating networks,  across the borders of countries and companies. 

Could Europe be absent of the battle for the standardisation of the digital world? It would be the same as desisting of having a role in the future of the world.

palyginti kainas