April 10th was Europe’s 2018 Digital Day. It brought ministers, politicians, academics, business leaders and representatives of civil society to celebrate and plan Europe’s progress in working with innovative digital technologies. It was a day which highlighted the advances the EU had made in embracing opportunities brought about by developments in emerging technologies. At the heart of this was the blockchain.
February saw the launch of the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum (EUBOF) which is aimed at aligning member state’s blockchain research efforts. It also has a €300m fund to invest in the technology. Coming off the back of the EUBOF was the announcement yesterday of the European Blockchain Partnership. This partnership will allow institutes in different EU states the opportunity and venue to swap knowledge about the new technology with one another, as well as act as a central hub for expertise. Its goal is to cut down on repeating work done elsewhere in the EU and try to ensure that the EU is a leader in blockchain research.
The EU has a lot of hope for what the technology can accomplish. Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, stated:
In the future, all public services will use blockchain technology. Blockchain is a great opportunity for Europe and Member States to rethink their information systems, to promote user trust and the protection of personal data, to help create new business opportunities and to establish new areas of leadership, benefiting citizens, public services and companies.
Blockchain may be used to follow through on the Tallinn Declaration, which bound EU governments to develop digital public services for citizens and to make cross-border services easier for businesses to access. The declaration prioritises things like digital delivery of public services, redress and complaint mechanisms, which all could be delivered through the use of the blockchain.
It marks another step forward in the widespread adoption of the technology. Most often blockchain is linked with cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, but applications of the technology outside financial and transactional uses are being increasingly explored.
Digital Day 2018 also celebrated the Digital Single Market initiative, which the EU hopes will get rid of online barriers between members of the Union.
Abolishing roaming charges across the continent was part of the DSM, and geoblocking of certain sites is the next thing to go. More stringent online privacy and data protection laws are due to come into force across the EU, as the GDPR takes effect on the 25th of May.
New initiatives that came out of Digital Day were announcements that the EU commission will put forward a proposal for EU nations to work more closely in developing Artificial Intelligence. The Communication on AI is due to be released in the coming weeks. A letter of intent was also signed by the 29 EU nations to come up with a legal framework for the testing and ultimate consumer use of self-driving cars.
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