If there’s one thing the European Union can’t be accused of lacking, it’s ambition. Now we’re adding another deadline to the many the EU has already set for itself and the Member States. Although this time it’s a virtual – or even imaginary – one, put in place specifically for this year’s Masters of Digital event.
Organised by DIGITALEUROPE, the leading industry body that represents over 45,000 digital companies across Europe, Masters of Digital 2024 has as its main theme “Europe 2030: A Digital Powerhouse”. This visionary event will provide a platform for policymakers, industry leaders and experts to discuss and chart a course for Europe’s digital transformation as we approach 2030.
One of those industry leaders, our very own Chief Technology Officer, Mohammed Sijelmassi, will take part in a panel discussion on this topic. In the run-up to the event, which takes place on 21 February, we spoke with another expert on all things EU – our colleague Bridget Cosgrave.
As Sopra Steria’s Public Policy Advisor, what do you feel is needed to turn the EU into a digital powerhouse by 2030?
“There’s a lot we could discuss here, to be honest. But let’s focus, for convenience sake, on the fact that the EU wants to reach a 75% adoption rate of AI, cloud and big data technologies by 2030. That’s a highly ambitious target which, if reached, would definitely turn our European Union into a digital powerhouse.
“One way of reaching that target is by having the public sector – at all levels, not just the European one – set the example for the private sector. By actively adopting all those digital technologies and revving up their own digital transformation, our public administrations at central, regional and local level would be creating a leverage effect for the European economy and population as a whole.
“The importance of the public sector in creating that effect should not be underestimated. As the EU itself has calculated, the administrations that are managing our public sector are responsible for about half of EU GDP – 51.5%, to be precise. They also employ around 21% of our EU workforce. They account for 19.8% of EU total gross value added. And every year they create a market worth about €670 billion through contracts for public works and supply. And let’s not forget that they also have the means to invest in all those new technologies that support and drive their digital transformation, as public administrations directly control about one-third of the EU budget.”
To elaborate on your point, could you give us a concrete illustration of a government leading by example in the adoption of digital technology?
“Certainly. And we don’t even have to look very far. Our own federal government here in Belgium, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU, has invested in a new state-of-the-art e-procurement platform. It was successfully delivered last September to Belgium’s Federal Public Service Policy and Support, better known as FPS BOSA, by its business and technology consulting partner Tobania, who officially joined Sopra Steria in March of last year.
“The new e-platform, which is used intensively by public sector buyers and private companies, really serves as an enabler for all levels of government in Belgium. By using a platform like this, you become far more effective at aligning your public procurement practices to your policy objectives or the KPIs you’ve set for your green transition, for instance. That’s why we would like to see more Member States adopting an electronic public procurement platform. Better yet, we’d like to see such platforms implemented as a multi-country project, an approach that the European Commission is actively encouraging at the moment. We believe this would definitely help the EU to reach its target of 75% adoption of new digital technologies and truly become a digital powerhouse.
“Belgium’s new e-procurement platform is a perfect illustration of the digital transformation of the public sector and the many benefits that transformation can bring – not only through increased efficiency but also by enabling compliance with regulatory obligations. Because new regulations are constantly coming, especially from the EU, and the real challenge often lies in getting all that new legislation implemented on time.
“In fact, during the current mandate of the European Commission and Parliament, there has been such a tremendous focus on passing new legislation that both the public and the private sectors in many Member States have struggled to absorb it all. That’s why, going forward, the focus will probably shift more towards implementation and user adoption. That also means upskilling and reskilling your public sector workforce. But that’s another challenge altogether, which we should save for another occasion, I guess.”
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