The internet has changed. While early internet pioneers dreamed of an open, free and decentralised internet, the story of the internet today is mostly a story of loss of control. Just a handful of companies determine what we read, see and buy, where we work and where we live, who we vote for, who we love, and who we are. Many of us feel increasingly uneasy about these developments. We live in a world where new technologies happen to us, rather than for us; a world in which citizens have very little agency to change the rules.
As the internet and digital economy now permeate more and more layers of our societies and economies, it is no surprise that vested interests have increasingly used them as channels through which to spread their own influence, and conversely also have used their influence to take charge of shaping the internet itself. The internet has become one of the main theatres of geopolitical conflict, with governments and increasingly powerful private-sector actors embroiled in an accelerating tech arms race, vying for control. At time of writing, the emergence of the long-feared 'splinternet' appears closer than ever before.
This working paper sets out the following five tangible missions Europe should embrace if it wants to reestablish itself as a values-led leader in the global innovation arms race:
- We democratise the internet by giving citizens control over their data and future trajectory of innovation, and create a single market for ethical data use and technology worth 1 trillion Euros by 2030.
- We build internet infrastructure and systems that can withstand environmental, economic and cyber shocks, and strengthen our role as a global champion of good governance and the open internet.
- We move to a fully circular and carbon-neutral economy for digital technology by 2030, strengthening the joint objectives of Europe’s twin green and digital transition.
- We establish a globally known brand for trustworthy and privacy-preserving technology, and play a leadership role in ensuring citizens around the world have access to trustworthy technology, data and information flows.
- By 2030, all Europeans can meaningfully access and participate in shaping the internet.