Could the Internet Do What the Euro Couldn’t?

By Mark Scott, European technology correspondent, The New York Times, February 27

Wherever you look in Europe, the 60-year project to unite the continent is starting to show its age. Almost a decade of financial crises – including multibillion-dollar bailouts for Greece and Cyprus, often accompanied by onerous repayment terms – have eroded people’s trust in many of the institutions that underpin the European Union. And the mass influx of migrants has tested the core tenets of the 28-member bloc, including the freedom to travel unhindered between countries.

Despite such challenges, Europe’s policy makers – not typically known for risk taking – are forging ahead with a new plan to align the continent’s disparate, and often contradictory, digital interests. The outcome, though, is far from assured.

The goal is to create a so-called digital single market across a region with more than 60 languages and a population of more than 500 million. Such a market, officials say, would offer unfettered access to services like movie streaming, online shopping and cloud computing no matter where one lived.

The plan is the brainchild of the European Commission, the Brussels-based executive arm of the European Union. The digital single market involves a raft of new policies that would come into force – if everything goes according to plan – by the end of the decade. The proposal has been championed by many political leaders, including Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission.

By allowing anyone from Ireland to Bulgaria to tap into the same digital marketplace, policy makers argue, Europeans could access a more diverse – and often cheaper – set of online services, from discounted online shopping to video-on-demand programming. Right now, for instance, someone in Spain cannot legally view (or buy) digital movies or sports events that are streamed online by companies based in other European countries.

The hope is that a unified digital marketplace would help improve Europe’s moribund economy by creating new businesses and tens of thousands of engineering and other technology-related jobs, according to European Union estimates. And it would help local start-ups harness the combined wealth of one of the world’s largest economies.

Already, technology communities have sprouted up in London and Berlin. And while Europe is a long way from competing with Silicon Valley as an incubator for innovation, several European companies, including the German e-commerce giant Zalando, are already worth billions of dollars.

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4 responses to “Could the Internet Do What the Euro Couldn’t?

  1. I confess that I don’t understand the technology that would bring it about but wonder whether it carries the risk of very much more internet junk, spam and misinformation.

  2. henrylotin@rogers.com

    While digital marketplace may improve some businesses, especially in current non EU or fringe countries, it is no substitute for the goals and objectives of the communitaire. Would not improve the policy concordance or promote fiscal and monetary co-ordination for Turkey or non-EU Balkan States that Membership or even Partnership status does. Hope this proposal does not divert attention to the central objectives of the Union – if it survives the current crisis of course.

  3. Looks like an apples and oranges comparison. Reducing barriers to trade, as suggested, by increase e-commerce decreases inefficiencies and artificial blockages. Hence it is “a good thing.”

    Citing Greece and Cyprus, again, the dissipated bad boys of Europe as an example of institutional failure is silly in this comparison. Member states got into trouble because of fiscal responsibility by those very member states.

    Apples versus oranges.

  4. I’m too old. I don’t understand.
    In this brave new world, greater access to television, films and electronic games is going to cure the economic and social ills of Europe.
    I’m so old I remember when wealth was created by building tangible things like cars and buildings; by growing things like food and by obtaining things like coal and iron.
    I’m so old I remember when people obtained, made or grew things that other people wanted and would pay money to use.
    Apparently this is now old hat. You don’t need to create anything tangible in order to meet consumer demand and anyone who thinks like that is too old and too stupid to understand.
    My ancient brain is playing me false. I keep having visions of a naked man walking through a crowd which is lauding his fine clothing.