On April 13, Sofia Investment Agency organized a conference dedicated to the benefits and opportunities for the Bulgarian business in implementing a Digital Single Market. Many issues were discussed during the conference, such as the challenges in providing experts prepared to work in a high-tech environment, and the future EC policies and regulations in terms of digital technologies and society.
The “Business Sofia 2018 – Digital Horizons” conference gathered the top 100 Sofia companies. Special guests of the event were the EU Commissioner on Digital Economy and Digital Society Mariya Gabriel, the Mayor of Sofia Yordanka Fandakova, the MEP Andrey Novakov, the Labor and Social Policy Minister Biser Petkov and the General Manager of Hewlett Packard Bulgaria Iravan Hira. Moderator of the discussions was Vladimir Danailov, CEO of Sofia Investment Agency.
EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel revealed the main clauses that will be included in the next bill of the European Parliament. Some of the topics were officially presented to the European Parliament days after the “Business Sofia 2018 – Digital Horizons” conference.
Here are the strategies and proposals of the European Commission announced during the conference:
Artificial intelligence (AI)
A proposal will be made to create a European Artificial Intelligence Alliance, to be set up in June 2018. The Alliance will enable institutions, civil society and businesses to identify good practices and to determine future steps together. The experts will be selected through a public procedure and the Alliance is expected to be operational as of September. According to the EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, the AI strategy is important because Europe continues to be the global leader in terms of robotics and has to keep its position. “It is important to address issues that are related not only to technological capacity, but also to topics that directly affect the business, the labor market and the citizens. That is why our strategy will focus on boosting Europe’s technological capabilities, but we will also raise ethical issues such as what is the responsibility and who has the rights”, the EU Commissioner on Digital Economy and Digital Society said.
Digital skills and labor market
As of June 2018, the European Commission will launch a new pilot project that will enable between 5 000 and 6 000 students to benefit from cross-border internships of 4 to 5 months in the field of modern technologies. The aim of the project is to make a direct connection between companies and students, as well as to fastly gather information related to the shortage of skills and types of labor in different sectors on the back of the companies’ applications for participation. The project budget is only EUR 10 million, but it will be able to cover the said number of students with a paid internship.
If successful, the pilot project will turn into a regular practice and one of the possible tools to cope with the rapid impact that AI has on the labor market. EC data are very alarming: only one in six companies in Europe is digitized; more than 40% of the companies say they have the opportunity to open jobs but cannot find suitable staff; only 37% of Europe’s population has basic digital skills, and over 90% of jobs after 2020 will require digital skills. “Therefore, it is very important to find more tools that will enable investment in people, digital skills and digital literacy”, Mariya Gabriel said and urged the business to be active and to join the program that already has more than 150 applications from companies, as well as to enter into dialogue with the team of the relevant European office and to share issues, concerns, ideas and criticisms so that the EC could establish business-friendly practices within the Digital Single Market.
The cross-border staff training project has its own website, where you can find information and contact the team.
Questions and answers for companies willing to join the initiative are available here.
For students, you can check here.
A pdf document with facts and opportunities of the program, available in 6 European languages, can be found here.
Platforms – business relationships
The European Commission’s package of proposals will also include another very important business initiative that is related to unfair commercial practices in the relationship between platforms and businesses. It aims at removing the opacity of platforms operating with products and services, the lack of clear information on the consequences of changes made to the rules for using platforms, on how platforms classify themes, products and services, on how they operate with data and many other aspects, which have a strong impact on the success of a business that has chosen a platform, especially if it is a small or medium business. According to a research, a company, product, or service ranked between 1st and 5th position on a platform may be seen by over 80% of users, while 10th position reaches just over 1%.
That is why the EU wants to introduce proposals for transparency of the algorithms and terms for using platforms, and to address the need of the business to have a clear interlocutor for feedback from the platform when it is necessary to solve a case. “I’m sure that each one of us would like to know who the contact person is behind large part of the platforms we operate with”, Mariya Gabriel said, adding that the office’s team will propose the creation of a European Observatory for Platform Monitoring.
Personal data protection and confidentiality of communication
In respect of the ePrivacy regulation, which concerns the confidentiality of communication, the EU Commissioner identified several critical points of crucial importance to the business. One of them concerns the use of metadata. “This type of data is very important for cities, because it can serve as a base for the creation of heat maps showing where there are traffic jams, problem spots, etc. in the cities”, Mariya Gabriel said. She recalled that the current operating directive allows personal data to be used only to upgrade existing services. The new regulation will contain a proposal for a change allowing the data to be used for new services as well. The business is expected to propose constructive concepts and constructive dialogue on how the EC will set the data usage in the regulation, because the consent of the users is also very important. They need to know when their data is being used, as well as the application and purpose of the usage.