Politically: we are doing that successfully with the Digital Single Market (DSM). All the initiatives that we promised in our strategy from three years ago are either now in effect, or on the negotiating table.
We need to get decisions on the pending proposals as soon as possible.
But financially: this is usually another story.
That is why I am very pleased that my fellow European commissioners supported digital in the European Commission's proposals for the EU's multi-annual budget, starting from 2021.
Here, digital has a strong and separate presence: you can see its footprint everywhere, spread over many different programmes.
Put together, research, innovation and digital funding should amount to 64% more than today. We calculate that the share of the budget for digital is even higher: a major investment for the future.
For the first time, the EU should have a dedicated funding programme for digital: €9.19 billion in the Digital Europe Programme. There will also be €3.00 billion in the Connecting Europe Facility.
This should go a long way towards securing a great deal of what Europe needs for its digital future. It is funding to:
- develop the supercomputing capacity that Europe urgently needs;
- develop and deploy 5G connectivity across all EU countries;
- promote artificial intelligence (AI); and
- continue our initiatives for digitising public services and European industry.
It means money to keep our privacy, data, bank accounts and digital identities safe by investing in stronger cybersecurity capacities that will protect the DSM and defend our security more broadly.
It means investments in advanced digital skills, so that people and businesses – all of European society – can better prepare and use the benefits of new digital developments, such as in AI.
But that is not all, I am pleased to say.
Digital's presence is a thread running through many other funding programmes in our next long-term budget.
New research and innovation funding – now looked after by the Horizon 2020 programme – will significantly support digital. We can expect the funding specifically allocated to ICT to be higher than the current €13 billion.
This is important for developing and applying digital and key enabling technologies, as well as for encouraging breakthrough research in areas like AI and cybersecurity.
EU regional funding will amount to more than €225 billion – and of its five priority areas, two relate directly to digital.
One will involve investing in high-speed digital access; the other, helping regional economies to make the most and best of digital transformation.
I could also mention €38 billion in budgetary guarantees in the InvestEU programme.
We expect that this will generate €650 billion in investments, with digital defined as a policy priority that spans all of the new fund's investment areas - thereby securing digital investment in all sectors.
Good news also to have a solid budget for the EU's MEDIA programme - €1.2 billion - which funds European films and the audio-visual sector in general, helping European culture and creativity go beyond national markets.
Our proposal will now be discussed by EU countries and the European Parliament.
But this is already a very promising commitment to Europe's digital future.
Of course, we also need EU governments themselves, as well as industry and business, to match this level of commitment as much as they can – so that all of Europe benefits from the opportunities and advantages of the DSM.
AI is a good example of this. As a whole - public and private - Europe should increase investments in AI research and innovation by at least €20 billion between now and the end of 2020 , and then aim for more than €20 billion per year over the following decade.
By combining our forces, I have no doubt that we can make this happen.
Europe needs digital. We all need digital.
And we need a solid investment in Europe's digital future.
Not only for today and tomorrow, but far into the next decade as well.
This is an excellent start. Another blog soon.