With its Communication on the 2030 Digital Compass, the European Commission has presented the next steps within the scope of one of its key priorities – the digital future of the EU. The Communication addresses a wide range of subjects, starting with education policy via digital infrastructure, business, and data protection aspects up to EU trade policy.
Lack of human-centered approach
A human-centered approach, which includes all parties concerned in the planned project, is crucial for Europe’s digital future. This concerns, among other, employees, members of the works council and the social partners, who must be actively involved. However, even though the Commission outlines a human-centered approach in the beginning of the Communication, it does not pursue it subsequently. From AK’s point of view, a commitment to stand out against the subordination of technology and to support the ability to shape the digital transformation as well as the question whether the digital transformation in all areas of society and working life is expedient and helpful, is essential. The involvement of people in their role as employees and as those who are shaping the digital transformation is indispensable for such a discussion.
80% of 16- to 74-year-olds in the EU should have basic digital skills by 2030. Apart from that, 20 million active experts (7.8 mil in 2019) should be trained in information and communications technology at the same time. This is to be welcomed in general. However, what is missing from the Austrian Chamber of Labour’s point of view is an answer to the problem how socially disadvantaged young people and low-skilled workers can be incorporated into this target. AK calls for separate funding projects, which take account of this target.
Digital infrastructure needs to be updated
Computing capacities in Europe shall be expanded and a European quantum computer shall be established by 2025 to be able to keep up with other global regions. The new capacities will be used in particular for digital applications, for example in the agricultural, production and public sector. The health sector can also benefit from digitalisation. However, in AK’s opinion, the handling of this particularly sensitive data in this sector has not been sufficiently clarified. Apart from that, it has to be emphasised that the development of new capacities is also an opportunity for employment and the creation of good jobs.
Data protection leaves many questions unanswered
Question marks concerning data protection hang not only over the health sector, but over other social sectors too. Admittedly, the Commission promises that data protection, the right to freedom of expression, consumer rights and privacy will be protected. However, in reality, these so far taken regulatory steps, are not sufficient to adequately protect employees, citizens and consumers against the risks of a digital world. The draft for the Data Governance Act shows that the data economy shall be able to access protected data, which AK vehemently criticises. Then again, in the case of Artificial Intelligence, the existing approaches might be very useful for the population; however, they may also be used for monitoring purposes, which pose a threat to democracy. Hence, a relevant legal framework is necessary. These examples alone show that there is still a great need for action concerning privacy and data protection.
Digital partnerships and trade agreements on digital aspects
For the first time, the European Commission mentions digital aspects in combination with the necessity of international digital partnerships and digital chapters in trade agreements. This is generally welcomed, for example in respect of cyber security, tackling illegal content, data protection and data traffic privacy. What the trade strategy considerations are still lacking, however, are concrete plans to build cross-border cooperation also with regard to employment policy aspects.